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One of the Forty belonging to the French Academy ; and Secretary to the 
Academv of Sciences. 





Translated from a late Paris Edition, by 








Life and Writings of the Author ^ 



'WHENEVER I have entered into conversation with anj 
sensible woman on astronomy, I have always found that 
she had read Fontenelle's Plurality of Worlds ; and that 
his book had excited her curiosity on the subject. As it has 
been so much read already, it must continue to engage at- 
tention : I therefore thought it would be useful to point 
out its faults ; to add some observations, without which 
the reader would be led into error with respect to the vor- 
tices; to make known the late discoveries; and to shew 
what numbers, before our author, had written on the plu- 
rality of worlds. But I have made no alterations in the text; 
the reputation of Fontenelle renders him respectable, even 
in his mistakes. 

The Astronomy for Ladies, which I have published as a 
substitute for this book, w r ould be more instructive, but less 
amusing; therefore, as it will be but little read, I shall en- 
deavour to supply the defects of Fontenelle's work, by ad- 
ding to the original some ideas more exact than his own. 

M. Codrika has translated it into Greek, with explanations 
taken from my Astronomy. 

II. Bode has translated j$ into German ; and his transla- 
tion has already gone through three editions : the last is 
that of 1798, Berlin, in octavo, Bernard de Fontenelle, 
Dialogen uebtr die Mehrheit der Welten. 


When Voltaire published, in 1738, his Essays on the 
Elements of Newton, he began with these words : " Here 
is no Marchioness ; no imaginary philosophy." It was sup- 
posed that he here alluded to Fontenelie ; this be contra- 
dicts by saying: u so far from having his book in view, I 
publicly declare that I consider it one of the best works 
that ever were written." (Mem. deTiublet, p. 155). 

This book has been printed a hundred times; the hand- 
some edition of Fontenelle's Works, in folio, published at 
the Hague in 1728,* with figures by Bernard Pickart ; the 
still more beautiful edition of the Worlds alone, edited 
by Didot the younger, in 1797, in folio, are master- pieces 
of typography ; but in them nothing is found but the original 
work; therefore T consider our edition far preferable. 

I shall here give a short account of the author of this 

Bernard, le Bovier f de Fontenelie was born at Bouen, 
February 11, 1657. He died January 9, 1757. 

The first efforts of his genius were directed to poetry : at 
the age of thirteen he had composed a Latin poem : about 
the year 16S3 he devoted himself to literature and philoso- 
phy. In 1699 he began L'Historie de 1'Academie des Sci- 
ences, which he continued with great success during forty- 
two vears. Few persons have contributed more to the pro- 
gress of the sciences than he has done, by accommodating 
them to every capacity, and inspiring by his panegyrics, a 
love of study. For my part, I feel a pleasure in acknow- 
ledging that I am indebted to him for the germ of that in- 
satiable activity of mind I have experienced ever since the 

* That edition does not contain the account of the bees, which is in 
the present edition. 

+ Lebeau writes the name le Bouyer, from the family name, in the 
Memoires de 1'Academie des Inscriptions ; but it is pronounced le Bo- 
vier. (Mem. p. 19.) 

acre of sixteen. I could find nothing in die world like the 
Academy of Sciences, and ardently wished for the happi- 
ness of seeing it, long before T had any idea of the possibi- 
lity of one da v belonging to it. 

In 172? he published his Elemens de la Geometrie de 
1'infini ; this was merely the amusement of a man of genius 
who had heard a little of geometry, and chose to hazard his 
opinions on the subject. 

We may find an eulogium on our author in l'Historie de 
l'Academie des Sciences for 1757, in the Memoires de l'A- 
cademie des Belles-Lettres, and in a work written entirely 
on the subject, published by Trublet in the year 1761, en- 
titled Memoires pour servir a l'Histoire de la vie et des Ouv- 
rages de Fontenelle. In these memoirs a particular cri- 
tique shews us the various merits of Fontenelle's works: 
there is also an article by Trublet in the edition of Moreri, 
published in 1759. 

I have remarked in the twentieth book of my Astronomy, 
that in every period of time it has been believed that the 
planets were inhabited, on account of their resemblance to 
the earth. The idea of the plurality of worlds is expressed 
in the Orphics, those ancient Grecian poems attributed to 
Orpheus (Plut. de Placitis Philosoph. I. 2, cap. 13.) Pro- 
cms has preserved some verses in which we find that the 
writer of the Orphics places mountains, men, and cities in 
the moon. The Pythagoreans, such as Philolaiis, Hicetas, 
Heraclides, taught that the stars were all worlds. Several 
ancient philosophers even admitted an infinity of worlds be- 
yond the reach of our sight. Epicurus, Lucretius, and all 
the Epicureans were of the same opinion; and Metrodorus 
thought it as absurd to imagine but one world in the im- 
mensity of space, as to say that only one ear of corn could 
grow in a great extent of country. Zeno of Eleusis, Anaxi- 
menes, Anaximander, Leucippus, Democntus, asserted 
the same thing : in short, there were some philosophers 


who, although they did not consider the rest of the planets 
inhabited, placed inhabitants in the moon; such were 
Anaxagorus, Xenophaues, Lucian, Plutarch, (De Oraculor. 
defectu. De Facie in orbe Luna?.) Eusebius, Stobius. We 
may see a long list of the ancients who have treated on the 
subject, in Fabricius, (Biblio. Gr<ec<£, t. 1. cap, 20.) and in 
the Memoire de Bonamy (Acad, des Inscriptions, torn, ix.) 
Hevelius appeared as firmly persuaded of this, opinion in 
164:7, when he talked of the difference between the inhabi- 
tants of the two hemispheres of the moon : he calls them 
selenita:, and examines at length all the phenomena ob- 
served in their planet, after the example of Kepler (Astron. 
Lunaris.) It was maintained at Oxford, in certain themes 
winch are mentioned in the News of the Republic of Let- 
ters, June 1784, that the system of Pythagoras on the inha- 
bitants of the moon was well founded : two years afterwards 
Fontenelle discussed this subject in his agreeable work. 
There are farther details of the different astronomical opi- 
nions at the end of Gregory's book. For the objections, 
we may refer to Riccioli. ( Almagest um, torn. 1, p. 188, 
204). In 1686 the Plurality of Worlds was adorned by 
Fontenelle with all the beauties of which a philosophical 
work was susceptible. Huygens (who died in J 695) in his 
book entitled Cosmotheoros, published in 1698, likewise 
enters largely into the subject. 

The resemblance between the earth and the other planets 
is so striking, that if we allow the earth to have been form- 
ed for habitation, we cannot deny that the planets were 
made for the same purpose ; for if there is, in the nature of 
things, a connection between the earth and the men who 
inhabit it, a similar connexion must exist between the pla- 
nets and beings who inhabit them. 

We see six planets around the sun, the earth is the third ; 
they all move in elliptical orbits ; they have all a rotatory 
motion like the earth, as well as spots, irregularities, moun- 


tains : some of them have satellites, the earth has one satel- 
lite : Jupiter is flattened like our world ; in short there is 
every possible resemblance between the planets and the 
earth: is it, then, rational to suppose the existence of living 
and thinking beings is confined to the earth ? From what , 
is such a privilege derived but the groveling minds of per- 
sons who can never rise above the objects of their immedi- 
ate sensations ? 

Lambert believed that even the comets were inhabited. 
(Svsteme da Monde, Bouillon; 1770.) Buffon determines 
the period when each planet became habitable, and when 
it will cease to be so, from its refrigeration. (Suplemens, 
in 4to. torn, n.j What I have said of planets that turn 
round the sun, will naturally extend to all the planetary 
systems which environ the fixed stars ; every star being an 
immoveable and luminous body, having light in itself, may 
properly be compared with our sun. We must conclude 
that if our sun serves to attract and enlighten the planets 
which surround it, the fixed stars have the same use. It is 
thought that the sun and fixed stars are uninhabitable be- 
cause they are composed of fire ; yet M. Knight, in a work 
written to explain all the phoenomena of nature, by attrac- 
tion and repulsion, endeavours to prove that the sun and 
stars may be habitable worlds, and that the people in them 
may possibly suffer from extreme cold. M. Herschel like- 
wise thinks the sun is inhabited (Philos. Trans. 179. p. 155. 
et suiv.) 

Some timid, superstitious writers have reprobated this 
system, as contrary to religion : they little knew how to 
promote the glory of their Creator. If the immensity of 
his works announce his power, can any idea be more calcu- 
lated than this to exhibit their magnificence and sublimity ? 
We see with the naked eye, several thousands of stars ; in 
every part of the firmament we discover with telescopes, in- 
numerable others ; with more perfect telescopes, we still 


find a multitude more. We compute, from the number 
seen through Herschers telescopes in one region of the sky, 
that there are a hundred millions. Imagination pierces be- 
yond the extent of vision, beholding multitudes of unknown 
worlds, infinitely more in number than those which are vi- 
sible to our sight; and ranges unrestrained in the boundless 
space of creation. 

Our only difficulty with respect to the inhabitants of so 
many millions of planets, is the obscurity of the final causes, 
which it is difficult to admit when we see into what errors 
the greatest philosophers have fallen ; for instance Fermat, 
Leibnitz, Maupertius, &c. in attempting to employ these 
final causes or metaphysical suppositions of imagined rela- 
tions between effects that we see and the causes we assign 
them, or the ends for which we believe them to exist. 

If the plurality of worlds be admitted without difficulty; 
if the planets are believed to be inhabited, it is because the 
earth is considered merely as a habitation for man, from 
which it is inferred that were the planets uninhabited they 
would be useless : but I will venture to assert that such a 
mode of reasoning is confined, unphilosophic, and at the 
same time, presumptuous. What are we in comparison of 
the universe ? Do we know the extent, the properties, the 
destination, and the connexions of nature ? Is our exist- 
ence, formed as we are, of a few frail atoms, to be consi- 
dered any thing when we think of the greatness of the 
whole ? Can we add to the perfection and grandeur of the 
universe ? These ideas are expressed by Saussure, who in 
speaking of a traveller to Montblanc says : " if, during 
his meditations, the thought of the insignificant beings that 
move on the face of the earth offers itself to his mind, if he 
compares their duration with the grand epochs of nature, 
how great will be his astonishment that man, occupying so 
small a space, existing so short a time, can ever imagine 
that his being is the only end for which the universe was 
created , M 


From these considerations d'Alembert, in the Encyclo- 
pedia, (art. World) after examining the arguments for sup- 
posing the planets inhabited, concludes by saying: the 
subject is enveloped in total obscurity. 

But Buffon affirms that wherever there is a certain de- 
gree of heat, the motion produces organized beings ; we 
need not enquire in what way, but imagine these to be the 
inhabitants of the planets : if that should be the case, we 
may conclude it highly probable that they are inhabited, 
notwithstanding the preceding objections. 




Muse ! if thou canst, this picture's truth excel ; 

Strive to pourtray the sou! of Fontenelle : 

Him, to whose works, with wit and judgment warm, 

Indulgent Nature, gave a magic charm. — 

Twas his to strew with flowers the toilsome road, 

Which leads to Science in her dark abode ; 

And while he touch'd the pastoral reed, to prove, 

That courtly pomp, must yield to rural love. 

A Lucian rising from the silent tomb, 

"Twas his, to pierce through Error's doubtful gloom ; 

And, with resistless eye, at once to dart 

Full on the hidden secrets of the heart— 

Union divine !— in Fontenelle we find 

A glowing genius, and a gentle mind ! 



1 FIND myself nearly in the situation of Cicero, when he 
undertook to write in his own language on philosophical sub- 
jects, that, till then, had never been treated of but in Greek. 
He tells us that his works were said to be useless, because those 
who delighted in philosophy, having taken the pains to study 
the books written in Greek, would not afterwards think of 
examining his Latin ones, which were not originals ; and 
that persons who had no taste for philosophy, would neither 
care for the Greek nor the Latin. 

To which he answers, that exactly the contrary would hap- 
pen; that the unlearned would be allured to philosophy by the 
facility of reading Latin works ; and that the well-informed, 
after studying the Greek authors, would be pleased to see how 
the subjects were handled in Latin, 

Cicero might with propriety speak in this manner; his su- 
perior genius and great celebrity assured him success in this 
untried project, but I have not the same advantages to in- 
spire me with confidence, in a similar undertaking. I was 


desirous of representing philosophy in a way that was not 
philosophical ; I have attempted to compose a book that shall 
neither be too abstruse for the gay, nor too amusivefor the 
learned. But if what was said to Cicero should be repeated 
to me, I could not venture to answer as he did : possibly in 
attempting to find a middle way which would accommodate 
philosophy to every class, I have chosen one that will not be 
agreeable to any. It is very difficult to maintain a medium, 
and I think I shall never be inclined to make a second at- 
tempt of this nature. 

I should warn those that have some knowledge of natural 
philosophy, that I do not suppose this book capable of giving 
them any information ; it will merely afford them some 
amusement, by presenting in a lively manner what they have 
already become acquainted with by dint of study. I would 
also inform those who are ignorant of these subjects that it 
has been my design to amuse and instruct them at the same 
time: the former will counteract my intention if they here 
expect improvement, and the latter, if they here only seek for 

I need not say that of all philosophical subjects I have 
chosen that which is most calculated to excite curiosity : sure- 
ly nothing ought to interest us more than to know how our 
own world is formed; and whether there be other worlds- 
similar to it, and inhabited in the same way : but let no mte 
be disquieted if unable to answer these enquiries; they who 
have time to spare may examine such subjects; many have it 
not in their power. 


In these Conversations I have represented a woman receiv- 
ing information on things with which she was entirely unac- 
quainted. I thought this fiction would enable me to give the 
subject more ornament, and would encourage the female stx 
in the pursuit of knowledge, by the example of a woman who 
though ignarant of the sciences, is capable of understanding 
all she is told, and arranging in her ideas the worlds and 
vortices. Why should any woman allow the superiority of 
this imaginary Marchioness, who only believes what she 
could not avoid understanding ? 

} Tis true, she gives some attention to the subjezt, but what 
sort of attention is requisite ? Not such as will laboriously 
penetrate into an obscure thing, or a thing that is spoken of 
in an obscure manner ; it is needful only to read with suffi- 
cient application to render the ideas familiar. Women may 
understand this system of philosophy by giving it as much at- 
tention as they would bestow on the Princess of Cleves, in 
order to understand the story and see all the beauties of the 
work. I do not deny that the ideas contained in this book are 
less familiar to the generality of females than those in the 
Princess of Cleves, but they are not more abstruse, and 1 am 
convinced that on a second perusal they would be perfectly 

As I did not wish to establish an imaginary system that 
had no foundation, I have employed true philosophical argu- 
ments, and as many of them as were necessary to establish my 
opinions; but fortunately the ideas connected with natural 
philosophy are in themselves beautiful, and whilst they satis- 


fy the understanding, give as much pleasure as if formed 
only to charm the imagination. 

To such parts of my subjects as did not possess these beau- 
ties I have given extraneous ornaments ; Virgil has done this 
in his Georgics, where he renders a dry subject interesting 
by frequent and agreeable digressions : Ovid likewise in his 
Art of Love has pursued the same plan, although the matter 
of his poem was far more pleasing than any thing he could 
add to it: he seems to think it tiresome to speak constantly of 
one subject— even of love. I have more need of embellish- 
ments than he, yet I have used them sparingly. I have only 
given such as the freedom of conversation authorised ; I have 
only placed them in parts that I thought required them; I 
have inserted most of them in the commencement of the work 
to accustom the mind by degrees to the objects I wish to pre- 
sent to its attention, in short, I have derived them from my 
subject, or formed them as much as possible to resemble my 

I did not venture to give any opinions on the inhabitants of 
the different worlds, since they must have been entirely chi- 
merical ; J have endeavoured to express all that might rea- 
sonably be imagi?ied, and even the conjectures that are added 
are not without foundation. Truth and fiction are in some 
measure blended, but always so as to be distinguishable from 
each other: I do not undertake to justify such a composition ', 
the union of philosophy and amusement is the chief aim of 
this work, but I know not whether I have adopted the right 


It only remains for me now to address one class cfpersor.s ) 
they are perhaps the most difficult to satisfy, net because my 
reasoning is inconclusive, but because they feel themselves 
privileged to disregard the best arguments : I am speaking of 
scrupulous people who may imagine religion is endangered by 
placing inhabitants any where but on the earth. I respect 
even an excessive scrupulcsity when it arises from piety, nor 
would I willingly hurt the feelings of any one from whom I 
differed : but by rectifying a little error of the imagination 
we shall find that this objection cannot affect my system of 
giving inhabitants to an infinite number of worlds. Wheh 
you are told that the moon is peopled, you immediately figure 
to yourself men like ourselves, and then a variety of theolo- 
gical difficulties occur. The posterity of Adam cannot have- 
colonized the moon ; therefore the inhabitants of that planet 
are not descendants of our first parents ; now it would be a 
difficult point in theology to account for the existence of men 
who had any other ancestor. No more need be said ; every 
imaginable difficulty is included in this, and the expressions 
that would be necessary for a more full explanation are too 
worthy of reverence to be employed in a work containing so 
little of the serious as this. The objection then turns on the. 
existence of men in the moon, but it is the objectors theni" 
selves who talk of men as its inhabitants ; I have asserted no 
such thing: I say there are inhabitants, and I likewise say 
they may not at all resemble us, What are they then? — I 
have never seen them; I do not speak from acquaintance 
with them. 


Do not consider it a subterfuge, to rid myself of the objec- 
tion, when I affirm that the moon is not peopled by men ; you 
will see that according to the idea I entertain of the endless 
diversity of the works of nature, it is impossible such beings 
as we, should be placed there. This opinion is supported 
throughout the book, and it is an opinion which no philosopher 
can deny : I think, therefore, on this ground, the following 
conversations will be objected to only by those who have never 
read them. But will this consideration suffice to deliver me 
from the fear of censure ? No; it rather gives me cause to 
apprehend objections from every side. 





TO MR. L . 

Y OU desire me, dear Sir, to give you a parti- 
cular account of the manner in which my time 
has been spent whilst at the Marchioness of 
G — 's* in the country. To obey your injunc- 
tions strictly, I shall be obliged to fill a volume, 
and what is still more formidable, a volume of 

You expect to be entertained with a history of 
splendid feasts, hunting, and card-parties ; and 
you will hear of nothing, but planets, worlds, and 

* The lady here mentioned was Madame de J a Mesan- 
gire of Rouen. She was a beautiful brunette ; but in com- 
pliance with her desire to be concealed, the author has 
spoken of her in the following pages, as having a fair com- 
plexion. The park belonging to her residence, is described 
in the " First Evening." 



vortexes : * for the discussion of these latter sub- 
jects, formed our principal amusement. Fortu- 
nately you are a philosopher, therefore I have the 
less reason to dread raillery from such a quarter ; 
on the reverse, I may even hope for your congra- 
tulations, on having rendered the Marchioness 
sensible to the charms of philosophy : we could 
not have made a more valuable acquisition ; for 
youth and beauty, in ever}' cause holds such 
power, that if wisdom herself were desirous of 
being welcomed by mortals, and would assume 
the form of this lovely woman, surely with such 
an exterior, and such fascinating eloquence, she 
could not fail to attract every heart. 

Notwithstanding all this, you must not ex- 
pect to be transported with admiration, whilst I 
repeat the conversations I have held with her la- 
dyship : my genius should be equal with foer's, 

* The Vortexes of Descartes, occupied the attention of 
the learned, for nearly a century ; but this hypothesis was 
superceded by a discovery of the laws of attraction. Al- 
though Newton's famous book on principles was published 
in 1687., Fontenelle always retained his educational preju- 
dice in favour of the Vortexes. A few years before his 
death, he consulted me on a little work he had some time 
since composed on the subject. I endeavoured to dissuade 
him from making it public ; but Falconet was afterwards 
weak enough to do so. The book is entitled " Theory of 
the Cartesian Vortexes, with Reflections on Attraction." The 
author's name was never affixed to the work. 


to relate what she said, in her own delightful 
manner. Conscious of inability, I must relin- 
quish the attempt, and leave you to discern 
through the recital, that rapidity of apprehen- 
sion, which characterizes the mind of the Mar- 
chioness. From the wonderful quickness with 
which she comprehends the most abstruse sub- 
jects, I consider her already learned : at least, I 
may be allowed to say, that after a little study, 
she might attain the heights of science ; when 
many, who spend their lives amid the dull dis- 
putes of vast libraries, remain for ever in the 
deepest ignorance. 

Before I recount our various conversations, 
perhaps you may expect some description of 
their scene ; some picture of the romantic coun- 
try, under whose shades the Marchioness is en- 
joying the autumn. If so, you will be disap- 
pointed : so many people have exercised their 
talents on this gay species of writing, that I shall 
dispense with the ceremony, and merely say, 
that on my arrival I had the pleasure of finding 
myself the only visitor. 

The two first days were passed in relating the 
news of Paris, which I had just quitted. When 
that subject was exhausted, an evening walk in 
the park, suggested the discussion of those learn- 
ed topics, the commencement of which you will 
find in the next page. 





AFTER supper we went to take a walk in the 
park. We felt the fragrant breeze of evening 
peculiarly delightful, as the heat had been in- 
tense during the day : the silvery rays of the 
moon, gleaming through the foliage, formed an 
agreeable contrast with the darkened shadows of 
the landscape. Not a cloud intercepted or veiled 
the smallest star. Every orb appeared a mass of 
pure gold, rendered more brilliant by the rich 
blue of the sky. The beauty of the scenery pro- 
duced a gentle reverie, from which, had not the 
Marchioness been with me, I should not have 
been easily roused ; but in the company of so 
interesting a woman I could not long abandon 

* This first book has been translated into a variety of lan- 
guages ; it is the best eclogue that has been composed in the 
last fifty years : the descriptions and imagery it contains are 
perfectly suited to the style of pastoral poetry ; indeed ma- 
ny of the images would not have disgraced the pen of a Vir- 

g ii. 

Dubos. Reflections on Poetry and Painting* 


myself to the influence of the moon and stars. 
Do you not think, said I, addressing myself to 
her, that the charms of a fine night greatly ex- 
ceed those of the day ? Yes, she replied, the 
splendour of day resembles a fair and dazzling 
beauty, but the milder radiance of night may be 
compared to a woman of less brilliancy of com- 
plexion, and more sweetness of expression. You 
are very generous, resumed 1, in giving the pre- 
ference to the brunette, whilst you are so fair. 
It is however true, that an unclouded sun is the 
most glorious object in nature ; and it is equally 
true, that the heroines of romance, the most 
beautiful objects imagination can depict, have al- 
most invariably been represented with fair com- 
plexions. Beauty, answered my companion, is 
nothing, unless it interests our feelings. You 
will not deny that the finest day never had the 
power of inspiring so delightful a reverie as you 
were falling into just now in contemplating the 
loveliness of the evening. You are right, said I, 
but the loveliest night I ever beheld, with all it's 
shadowy beauty-, would fail to give me such en- 
chanting sensations as the contemplation of the 

fair face of the Marchioness de G . I should 

not be satisfied with your compliment, she re- 
plied, did I even believe you sincere, since the 
brightness of day, with which we have been 
comparing fair women, has so little influence on 
your heart. Why do lovers, who undoubtedly 


can judge of what is most touching, address all 
their poetic effusions to the night ? To the ear 
of day they neither confide -their transports nor 
their sorrows — why is it so entirely excluded 
from their confidence ? Probablv, I answered, 
because it is not calculated to inspire that deli- 
cious sentiment, at once impassioned and me- 
lancholy, which we feel in the stillness of night, 
whilst all nature seems to repose. The stars ap- 
pear to move with more silent progress than the 
sun: ever} 7 object that decorates the heavens is 
soft, and attractive to the eye : in short, we re- 
sign ourselves more easily to reverie because we 
feel as if no other being was at that time enjoy- 
ing the pensive pleasure that expands our soul. 
Perhaps, too, the uniformity of day, in which 
the sky presents no other object than the sun, is 
less favourable to the wild and pleasing illusions 
of fancy than the view of innumerable stars, scat- 
tered with sportive irregularity, over the bound- 
less space. I have always felt what you describe, 
said she, I love to see the stars, and am almost 
inclined to reproach the sun for hiding them. 
Ah ! cried I, I cannot forgive him for concealing 
so many worlds from my sight ! Worlds ! she 
exclaimed, turning to me with surprize, what do 
you mean? Forgive me, said I, you touche8 
the wildest chord of my imagination — I forget 
myself in a romantic idea. And what is this ro- 
mantic idea? enquired the Marchioness. Ah! 


replied I, I am half ashamed of owning it : — I 
have taken it in my head that every star may be 
a world. I would not positively assert the truth 
of my opinion, but I believe it because it affords 
me pleasure ; it has possessed my mind with ir- 
resistible force ; and I consider pleasure a need- 
ful accessary to truth. Well, said she, since 
your whim is such a pleasant one, make me a 
partaker of it ; I'll believe any thing you chuse 
about the stars, provided it contributes to my 
happiness. Ah ! madam, I replied, 'tis not such 
an enjoyment as you would find in seeing one of 
Moliere's comedies : it is an idea which can only 
give delight to the understanding. What ! ex- 
claimed she, do you think I am not susceptible 
of pleasures which depend only on reason ? I 
will convince you of your mistake. Teach me 
your system. No, answered I, I will not sub- 
ject myself to the reproach of having talked of 
philosophy, in such an enchanting walk as this, 
to the most interesting woman of my acquaint- 
ance. No, seek for pedants elsewhere. 

For a long while I attempted, in vain, to ex- 
cuse myself; I was at last obliged to yield : I in- 
sisted, however, for my reputation s sake, on a 
promise of secrecy. Every objection being re- 
moved, I wished to begin the subject, but found 
the commencement extremely difficult ; for, with 
a person who was ignorant of natural philosophy, 
it was necessary to converse in a very circuitous 
b 4 


manner, to prove that the earth was a planet, the 
other planets similar to the earth, and all the 
stars so many suns which enlightened a number 
of worlds. I once more assured her it would be 
much better to talk on such trifles as other peo- 
ple, in our situation, would amuse themselves 
with. In the end, however, to give her a gene- 
ral idea of philosophy, I pursued the following 

All philosophy, said I, is founded on two 
things ; an inquisitive mind, and defective sight ; 
for if your eyes could discern every thing to per- 
fection you would easily perceive whether each 
star is a sun, giving light to a number of worlds ; 
on the other hand, had you less curiosity, you 
would hardly take the trouble to inform yourself 
about the matter, and consequently remain in 
equal ignorance ; but the difficulty consists in 
our wanting to become acquainted with more 
than we see : besides, it is out of our power to 
understand much of what is even within the reach 
of our sight, because objects appear to us very 
different from what they are. Thus philosophers 
pass their lives in disbelieving what they see, and 
endeavouring to conjecture what is concealed 
from them ; such a state of mind is not very en- 

In thinking on this subject, nature always ap- 
pears- to me in the same point of view as theatri- 
cal representations. In the situation you occupy 


at the opera you do not see the whole of its ar- 
rangements : the machinery and decorations are 
so disposed as to produce an agreeable effect at 
a distance, and at the same time the weights and 
wheels are hidden by which every motion is ef- 
fected. You behold all that is passing, without 
concerning yourself about the causes; and so 
perhaps do all the other spectators, unless a- 
mong the number some obscure student of me- 
chanics is puzzling himself to account for an extra- 
ordinary motion which he cannot understand. 
You see the case of this mechanical genius re- 
sembles that of the philosopher studying the 
structure of the universe. What, however, aug- 
ments the difficulty with respect to philosophers 
is, that nature so entirely conceals from us the 
means by which her scenery is produced, that 
for a long time we were unable to discover the 
causes of her most simple movements. Figure 
to yourself, as spectators of an opera, the Pytha- 
gorases, the Platos, the Aristotles; all these 
men whose names are now so celebrated. Let 
us suppose them viewing the flight of Phaeton, 
rising on the wind ; ignorant at the same time of 
the construction of the theatre, and the cords by 
which the figure is put in motion. One to ex- 
plain the phenomenon, says, it is some hidden 
virtue in Photon which causes him to rise ; another 
replies, Phceton is composed of certain numbers 
•which produce his elevation. A third says, Vhaton 


lias a love for the top of the stage ; he is uneasy at 
any other part. The fourth thinks, it is not essen- 
tial to the nature of Photon to rise in the air, but 
he prefers flying up to leaving a vacuum at the top of 
the stage. Such were the ridiculous notions of 
the ancient philosophers, which to my astonish- 
ment have not ruined the reputation of antiquity. 
After all Descartes and some other moderns ap- 
pear : they tell you that Phceton rises in conse- 
quence of being drawn by cords, fastened to a de- 
scending weight, which is heavier than himself. It 
is no longer believed that a bodv can have mc- 
tion, unless acted upon by another body; that it 
can rise and descend without a counterbalancing 
w 7 eight; thus, whoever examines the mechanism 
of nature is only going behind the scenes of a the- 
atre. If that be the case, answered the Mar- 
chioness, philosophy is a very mechanical affair ! 
So much so, I replied, that I am afraid it will 
fall into disrepute. In short, the universe is but 
a watch on a larger scale ; all its motions de- 
pending on determined laws and the mutual re- 
lation of its parts. Confess the truth, have you 
not hitherto entertained a more exalted idea of 
the works of nature ? Have you not considered 
them with more veneration than they deserve ? 
I have known some people esteem them less as 
their knowledge encreased. For my part, said 
she, I contemplate the universe with more awful 


delight now I find that such wonderful order is 
produced by principles so simple. 

I know not, rejoined I, how you have acquired 
such rational ideas, for. to say the truth, they 
are not very common. The generality are affect- 
ed only by the obscure and marvellous. They 
admire nature merely because they consider it a 
sort of magic ; something too occult for the un- 
derstanding to reach : to them a thing appears 
contemptible as soon as they find the possibility 
of explaining its nature : but you, madam, can 
reason so clearly, that I have only to draw aside 
the veil, and present the world to your inspec- 

What we behold at the greatest distance from 
our earth is the azure heaven, that immense 
arch to which the stars seem firmly to adhere. 
They are called fixed, because they appear to 
have no other motion than that of their sky, car- 
rying them from east to west. Between the 
earth and the remote firmament are suspended, 
at various distances, the sun, moon, and the o- 
ther five stars, denominated planets ; Mercury, 
Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.* These pla- 
nets not being stationary at one point in the hea- 
vens, but having unequal motions, vary with 

* In 1781, M. Herschel discovered a sixth. Astronomy 
by Lalande, third edition, 1792, Vol. 1, Art. 116. 


respect to their relative situations ; the fixed 
stars, on the contrary, always bear the same lo- 
cal relation to each other. The chariot, for in- 
stance, that you may distinguish, formed of 
those seven stars, has always had that configura- 
tion, and is likely to retain it ; but the moon 
sometimes approaches nearer to the sun ; some- 
times retreats farther from it ; the same is ob- 
served of the other planets. Such were the ob- 
servations made by the Chaldean shepherds whose 
continual leisure enabled them to give so much 
attention to the heavenly bodies as to form the 
rudiments of astronomy, for we learn that that 
science took its rise in Chaldea,* as Geometry 
was first studied in Egypt, where the inundations 
of the Nile destroyed the boundaries of different 
possessions, made the inhabitants desirous of 
exact measures by which they could again sepa- 
rate their own lands from those of their neigh- 
bours. Thus astronomy is the offspring of idle- 
ness, geometry of interest; and if we enquire into 
the origin of poetry, we shall probably find that 
she is the daughter of love. 

I am glad, said the Marchioness, you have 
given me this genealogy of the sciences ; astro- 
nomy is the only one that will suit me : geome- 
try, according to your account of it, requires a 

Perhaps in Ethiopia. Astronomy, Art. 260. 


more selfish heart than mine ; and I have not sus- 
ceptibility enough to attempt poetry with suc- 
cess ; I have, however, as much leisure as can 
be needful for the study of astronomy ; it is ano- 
ther favourable circumstance that we are in the 
country, leading a pastoral life. Do not mis- 
take madam, answered I, talking of planets and 
fixed stars is not all that constitutes a pastoral 
life. Was the conversation of the shepherds, in 
the golden age, confined to astronomy ? Ah, 
said she, but it would be dangerous to conform 
one's mode of life to their's. No, that of the o- 
ther shepherds you mention appears preferable to 
me ; therefore let us converse, if you please, in 
the Chaldean style. After this disposition of the 
stars was remarked, what followed ? The next 
thing, I replied, was to imagine the arrangement 
of the different parts of the universe ; that is what 
the learned call making a system. But before I 
explain to you the first of these systems, give 
me leave to premise that we are all naturally 
disposed to the same sort of madness as a certain 
Athenian of whom you have heard, who had tak- 
en it in his head that every vessel which went 
into the port of Pyreum belonged to him. We 
chuse to believe that every thing in creation is 
destined to our service ; and when we enquire of 
some philosophers the use of such a prodigious 
number of fixed stars, of which a smaller pro- 
portion would have been sufficient for all the 


offices they appear to perform ; they coolly an- 
swer, they were made to gratify our sight. On 
this selfish principle it was for a long time sup- 
posed that the earth was motionless in the midst 
of the universe, whilst all the heavenly bodies 
were created for the sole purpose of journeying 
round, and distributing their light to her. Next 
to the earth they placed the moon, after the 
moon, Mercury, then Venus, the Sun, Mars, 
Jupiter, Saturn; beyond all these the firmament 
of fixed stars. It was imagined that the earth 
was stationed exactly in the middle of the circles 
described by these planets which extended in 
proportion to their distance from the earth, and 
that consequently the most remote planets re- 
quired a longer time to perform their revolutions, 
which certainly is true. But, interrupted the 
Marchioness, I can't see why you should disap- 
prove such an arrangement of the universe, it 
appears to me sufficiently commodious and intel- 
ligible, I really feel quite satisfied with it. I 
have taken pains, answered I, to represent this 
system in the most favourable point of view ; 
if I were to explain it exactly as it was 
conceived by Ptolomy the author of it, and 
his disciples, you would be quite shock- 
ed. As the motions of the planets are irre- 
gular, being sometimes quicker, sometimes 
slower ; going sometimes in one direction, 
sometimes in another ; now nearer to the 


earth, then at a greater distance from it; the 
ancients figured to themselves an endless number 
of circles intersecting each other, by which they 
endeavoured to understand the great variety of 
movements. The confusion, however, caused 
by such an infinity of circles was so perplexing 
that, at the time no better system was known, 
one of the kings of Castile,* a profound mathe- 
matician, was daring enough to say, that if the 
supreme Being had consulted him when he creat- 
ed the world, he would have given him some 
good advice. We are filled with horror at the 
impiety of this expression, but it serves to shew 
us how absurd must have been the hypothesis 
which could prompt it. The advice this man 
wished to have given, undoubtedly regarded the 
suppression of so many circles, which did but 
prevent the planetary motions from being under- 
stood. Probably he would likewise have ex- 
punged from the system two or three superfluous 
firmaments, supposed to be above the fixed 
stars. The philosophers, to explain some parti- 
cular motion of the heavenly bodies, placed, be- 
vond the heaven that bounds our view, a sky of 
crystal, which communicated this motion to the 
lower sky. Was a new movement discovered ? 
they had nothing to do but to form a second crys- 

Alphonsus. king of Castile died in 128* 


tal firmament. In short skies of crystal were made 
without any trouble. Why did they always chuse 
crystal ? enquired the Marchioness ; would no- 
thing else have answ r ered the purpose as well ? 
No, answered I, it was necessary to have a sub- 
stance, at once transparent and solid, for it was 
Aristotle's opinion that solidity was essential to 
the dignity* of their nature, and as this was be- 
lieved by a great man, nobody thought of doubt- 
ing it. But since that time comets have been 
seen which, being higher than was formerly ima- 
gined, must have broken all the crystal of these 
skies, in passing through them, and by that 
mean, thrown the universe into confusion; it 
was therefore found necessary to change the mat- 
ter of which these firmaments were composed, 
into a fluid, such as air. 

It is now discovered with certainty, by the re- 
searches of later ages, that Venus and Mercury 
turn round the Sun, and not round the earth, on 
this subject the ancient system is absolutely ex- 
ploded. I will now acquaint you with another 
which provides for every difficulty, one that does 
not require any amendments of the king of Cas- 
tile, for its simplicity is so charming that one 
cannot refuse to believe it. Your's, interrupted 
the Marchioness, seems a sort of bargaining phi- 
losophy ; whoever offers a system that is effected 
at the least expense, has the preference. Tis 
true, said I ; we have no other chance of under- 


standing the plan by which the operations of na- 
ture are carried on. Nature is a wonderful eco- 
nomist ; if a work is to be effected, and two 
ways are practicable, we may be sure she will 
adopt that which costs her the least, however 
trifling the difference. This economy is notwith- 
standing in every respect consistent with the sur- 
prising magnificence which appears in all her 
productions. Magnificence is employed in the 
design, and frugality in the execution of it. No- 
thing should excite our admiration so much as a 
stupendous project effected by simple means : but 
we are apt to cherish ideas of a very different 
kind. We place the frugality in the designs of 
nature, and her grandeur in the execution. We 
imagine her forming a contracted plan, and exe- 
cuting it with ten times the labour that is requi- 
site : what can be so ridiculous ? I hope, she 
replied, that the system you are going to explain 
will strictly imitate nature ; the simplicity you so 
admire will spare me a great deal of trouble in 
comprehending your instructions. Your hope 
will be realized, said I, we have now no useless 
incumbrances. At the appearance of a certain 
German named Copernicus,* astronomy became 
simplified ; he destroyed all the unnecessary cir- 

* He was born in 1472, at Thorn, in Prussia Royal : he 
died in 1543. 


cles, and crushed to pieces the crystaline firma- 
ments.* Animated with philosophic enthusiasm, 
he dislodged the earth from the central situation 
which had been assigned it, and in its room 
placed the sun, who was more worthy of such a 
mark of distinction. The planets were no longer 
supposed to perform their revolutions round the 
earth, and enclose it in the centre of their orbits. 
If they afford us light it is as it were by chance, 
and in consequence of passing us in their course. 
They all turn around the sun ; the earth itself 
not excepted ; and as a punishment for the indo- 
lent repose it had been thought to enjoy, Coper- 
nicus made it take an ample share of the general 
activity : in short of all these celestial attend- 
ants, appointed for the service of our little globe, 
the moon alone is left to move round it. Stop a 
moment, said the Marchioness, your imagina- 
tion is so elevated with your subject, you have 
explained it in such pompous language, that I 
believe I have scarcely understood you. The 
sun, you say, is immoveable in the centre of the 
universe; which of the planets is next in succes- 
sion? 'Tis Mercury, I replied. Mercury goes 
regularly round the Sun in nearly a circular orbit, 
of which that luminary is the central point. Next 

* Several of the ancients were of opinion that we should 
admit the motion of the earth. Astron. Art. 1075. 


to Mercury is Venus, which turns in the same 
manner round the Sun. Afterwards comes the 
Earth, and being higher than Mercury and Ve- 
nus, describes a larger circle round the Sun than 
either of those planets. Then follow Mars, Ju- 

! piter and Saturn, in the order I have named 
them ; thus you see the circle of Saturn must be 
the most extensive of all ; it likewise requires a 
longer time than the other planets to perform its 
revolution. But, exclaimed she, you have for- 

i gotten the moon. I shall recollect it presently, 
said I ; the moon never abandons the earth, but 
is constantly going round it ; but as the earth is 
continually moving onwards in a circle round the 
sun, the moon at once follows its motion, and 
revolves round it ; this attendant planet, there- 
fore only goes round the sun in consequence of 
invariably continuing near to the earth. 

I understand you, said she, and I love the 
moon for remaining attached to us when we 
were forsaken by all the other planets. Confess 
that if your German could have alienated that 
too, he would have done it without regret ; for 
one may see, in every part of his hypothesis, that 
he was but little inclined to favour the earth. 
He did well, I replied, to humble the vanity of 
men who chuse to claim the best situation in the 
universe ; 'tis with pleasure I consider the world 
mixing in the croud of planets. Pshaw ! cried 
the Marchioness ; do you think vanity can have 
c 2 


any thing to do with a system of astro no mv r Do 
you suppose I feel humbler for knowing that the 
earth goes round the sun r I assure you I esteem 
myself just as highly as I did before. Certainly, 
madam, I answered, men would be less con- 
cerned about the rank they held in the universe 
than that they enjoyed amongst their associates; 
neither would the disputes of two planets, for 
precedence, be so important in their judgement 
as those of two ambassadors. Nevertheless, the 
same disposition which induces a man of the 
world to aspire after the most honourable place 
in a room, will make a philosopher desirous of 
placing the globe on which he lives in the most 
distinguished situation m the universe. He likes 
to consider every thing made for his use ; he en- 
courages, without being aware of his vanity, so 
flattering an opinion, and his heart becomes 
deeply engaged about an affair of mere specula- 
tion. Upon my word, she exclaimed, you are 
calumniating human nature — how happened it 
that the opinions of Copernicus were received, 
since they are so very humiliating r Copernicus. 
answered I, was himself very doubtful of the re- 
ception they would meet with : it was a Ions while 
before he could resolve to publish his system ; at 
last, however, he yielded to the entreaty of seve- 
ral distinguished characters ; but what do you 
think was the consequence ? — on the day they 
took him the first printed copy of his book, Be 


died : so he made use of the shortest way to es- 
cape from all the contradictions he had been an- 

Listen to me, said the Marchioness : let us 
be just to every body: it certainly is difficult to 
imagine we turn round the sun, for we never 
-change places ; we rise in the morning where we 

went to rest at night 1 see from your look 

that you are going to tell me, that as the earth 

moves altogether . Assuredly, said I, 

it is the same thing as going to sleep in a boat 
which was sailing down a river: on waking, you 
would find yourself in the same boat, and in the 
same part of the boat. Yes, replied she, but 
here is a difference; when I awoke I should find 
an alteration in the shore, and that would prove 
that the boat had changed its place : it is not so 
with respect to the earth, 1 there find every thing 
as I left it. Xo, no, madam, you may observe 
an alteration in the shore, as you do in the boat : 
you will recollect that beyond all the planets are 
the fixed stars, these are what we must consider 
the objects on the shore. I am on the earth; the 
earth describes a large circle round the sun; 
when I look to the middle of this circle I find the 
sun, and were not its brightness so dazzling as to 
render the stars invisible, I should constantly 
see, by looking beyond the centre, some of the 
fixed stars opposite to the sun ; by viewing them 
however at night, I can easily determine how 
c 3 


they were situated in the day, which renders my 
observations equally accurate. If the earth re- 
mained in the same place I should always find 
the same fixed stars answering to the situation of 
the sun, but as the earth moves on in her orbit, 
I necessarily see other fixed stars at the point 
which I had before examined. Such is our shore, 
which is every day varying; and as the earth 
goes round the sun in a year, I observe the sun, 
during that space of time, successively answering 
to different fixed stars which compose a circle ; 
this circle is called the Zodiac ; shall I shew it 
you by tracing a figure on the earth r No, said 
she, I can dispense with that ; it would give my 
park too learned an appearance. I think I have 
heard that a philosopher, shipwrecked on an 
island with which he was unacquainted, cried 
out to his companions on perceiving some lines 
and circles drawn on the sand; courage, my 
friends ! the island is inhabited ; here are the foot- 
steps of men. You must consider that such foot- 
steps ought not to be seen here. 

It would certainly, I replied be more in charac- 
ter, to trace only the footsteps of lovers ; that is 
to say, your name, engraved by your adorers on 
the bark of every tree. No more of adorers, 
cried she ; let us talk of the sun. I understand 
perfectly why we imagined it performing the re- 
volution which is merely effected by our own mo- 
tion, but this circle requires a year ; how, then, 


does the sun appear to go round us every day ? 
You undoubtedly know, I replied, that if a ball 
were rolled along this walk it would have two 
sorts of motion ; it would go towards the end of 
the walk, and at the same time turn several times 
on its own axis, so that the side of the ball which 
is at first uppermost will presently descend, and the 
other, of course, rise to the top. This is the case 
with the earth : whilst she is proceeding, through 
the year, in her orbit round the sun, she turns 
on her own axis every twenty- four hours : each 
part, therefore, of the earth loses, and recovers 
sight of the sun during that time. When in the 
morning we turn towards the sun, it seems to rise; 
and when, by continued rotation,we again are more 
distant from it, it appears to descend. That's curi- 
ous enough, said she ; the earth undertakes every 
thing, and the sun does nothing at all : and when 
the moon, the other planets, and the fixed stars 
appear to pass over us in four-and-twenty hours, 
it is merely imagination. Exactly so, I replied, 
and produced by the same cause. The planets 
perform their revolutions round the sun in une- 
qual periods of time, in consequence of their dif- 
ferent distances from it ; and one which we see 
to day answer to a certain point in the zodiac, or 
circle of fixed stars, will to-morrow at the same 
hour answer to some other point : this is the ef- 
fect both of the progress which the planet has 
made in its orbit and of that which we have made 
c 4 


in ours. We move onward; the other planets 
do the same, but we do not continue all in a line : 
this occasions us to see them in such different si- 
tuations, and renders their course apparently 
irregular. You now understand that such irre- 
gularity depends only on the different points 
from which we view them, and that, in reality 
all their movements are directed by the most ex- 
act order. It may be so, answered the Mar- 
chioness; but I should be glad if their order did 
not cost the earth so much : you seem to have 
very little consideration for it. and to require an 
astonishing agility in so large a body. But, said 
I. do vou think it more reasonable for the sun, 
and all the other heavenly bodies, which are ex- 
tremely large, to perform in four-and-twenty 
hours an immense journey round the earth ? That 
the fixed stars, being in the largest circle, should 
travel, in the course of a day. more than twentv- 
seven thousand six hundred and sixty times two 
hundred millions of leagues I* All this must be 
if the earth does not turn on her axis every twenty- 
four hours. Surely there is much more rational- 
ity in supposing our globe to turn, which would 
give to each part but a journey of nine thousand 

* According to later calculations. ie a thousand 

millions of times a million of leagues ; but a person who did 
not believe the motion of the earth would have no occa- 
sion to admit this prodigious distance. 


leagues. Consider what a trifle are nine thou- 
sand in comparison of the terrific number I have 
just mentioned. 

Oh! replied the Marchioness; the sun and 
stars are made of fire, a swift motion is nothing 
to them, but the earth does not seem formed for 
motion. And should you think, I answered, if 
experience had not proved the fact, that a large 
ship, carrying a hundred and fifty pieces of can- 
non, three thousand men, and a heavy freight of 
merchandize, could be formed for motion f — Yet 
a gentle breeze is sufficient to move it forwards, 
because the water, being liquid, and easily di- 
vided, makes a very slight resistance to the pro- 
gress of the ship, or if it be in the middle of a 
river, it follows without difficulty the current of 
the water, since there is then no impediment. 
In like manner the earth, notwithstanding its 
weight, is with facility carried through the skv 
which is infinitely more fluid than water, and 
which fills the immense space occupied by all 
the planets. To what could the earth be fasten- 
ed so strongly as to resist the current of this ce- 
lestial fluid and remain motionless r we might as 
well imagine a little wooden ball could resist the 
tide of a river. 

But, said she, how can a body so ponderous 
as the earth be suspended in your celestial fluid, 
which from its great fluidity must be extremely 


light ? It does not follow, I replied, that a sub- 
stance must be extremely light because it is fluid. 
What do you think of the great ship we have been 
talking of, which, with all its lading, is lighter 
than the water that supports it ? I w r on't have 
any more to say to you, answered she, half an- 
grily, if you mention your ship again.* But tell 
me, is it not dangerous to inhabit such a whirli- 
gig as you represent the earth ? If you are a- 
fraid, said I, let us have the world supported by 
four elephants, as the Indians do. Well ! cried 
she, here is a new system. I like those people 
for providing such good foundations for the earth 
to rest on, whilst we Copernicans are imprudent 
enough to swim at random in this celestial fluid. 
I dare say if the Indians knew there was the least 
danger of the earth's being moved, they would 
double the number of elephants. 

It w r ould be worth while, I replied, laughing 
at the thought, we must not be sparing of ele- 
phants if they can enable us to sleep in peace ; if 
you would find them serviceable to night we'll 
put as many as you please, and then re- 
move them one or two at a time as you find 

* The Marchioness was in the right not to listen to such 
an answer. It is absurd to pretend that the a?therial fluid, 
so light and rare, can be capable of bearing along those 
enormous masses, the planets. 


your courage return. No, said she, I don't think 
there is any need for them, and to speak serious- 
lv, I feel courageous enough to let the world turn 
round. And I can venture to predict, answered 
I, that in a little while its turning will give you 
pleasure; will even inspire the most delightful 
ideas, I sometimes imagine myself raised above 
the surface of the earth, and remaining motion- 
less whilst its daily rotation continues. All the 
different inhabitants pass in review; some fair, 
some copper-coloured, some black. Now I see 
heads covered with hats; then with turbans; 
some shaven, others with flowing hair. As the 
towns pass before me, I observe some have stee- 
ples, some long spires with crosses on them, o- 
thers are ornamented with towers of porcelaine. 
Then I behold large countries with no other 
buildings than little huts : afterwards, immense 
seas ; then frightful desarts ; and in short, all the 
boundless variety which is to be found on the face 
of the earth. 

Really, she replied, it would be worth while 
to devote four- and- twenty hours to such a sight. 
If I understand you, when we move, other coun- 
tries with their inhabitants pass into the situation 
we are leaving, and so on, till in four-and-twen- 
ty hours we again arrive at the same place. 

Copernicus himself, said I, could not have 
comprehended it more clearly. The first that 


would succeed us* would be the English: we 
should probably find them arguing on some poli- 
tical topic with less gaiety than we are discussing 
our philosophy. When we had dismissed them 
we should discover a vast sea,f on which per- 
haps would be some vessel, less at her ease than 
we. Then come the Iroquois, eating one of their 
prisoners "of war, who does not even utter a 
groan though still alive when they begin to de- 
vour him. J After them the women of Jesso, who 
employ all their time in preparing victuals for their 
husbands, and painting their lips and eye-brows 
blue to appear handsome in the eyes of the most 
disgusting men in the world. Then the Tartars, 
very devoutly going on a pilgrimage to their high 
priest, who dwells in an obscure recess, enlight- 
ened only by lamps, the rays of which direct 
these votaries to the object of their adoration. 
Afterwards the beautiful Circassians who make 
no ceremony of granting all their favours to the 
first that solicits them, except what they believe 
the essential prerogative of their husbands. Then 
the inhabitants of Little Tartary, who go to steal 
women for the Turks and Persians. Last of all 

* To speak more properly they would be one hundred 
leagues northward. 

f The Atlantic. 
$ We should next see the Pacific Ocean. 


sour countrymen, whom we should find entertain- 
ing each other with the vagaries of their imagina- 

It is amusing enough, said the Marchioness, 
to fancy oneself in a situation to see all these 
things : but if I were taking the view I should 
wish for the power of hastening or retarding the 
earth's motion, according to the feelings with 
which each object inspired me : I assure you I 
should soon push on those that argued on poli- 
tics, and the others that devoured their enemies ; 
but there are some of the people you have been 
speaking of that would excite my curiosity ; the 
handsome Circassians, for instance, whose cus- 
toms are so peculiar. But a serious difficulty 
occurs to me respecting your system. If the 
earth turns, we every moment change our atmos- 
phere, and respire that of a new climate. By no 
means, madam, I replied; the air which sur- 
rounds the earth rises only to a certain height, 
twenty leagues perhaps at farthest ;* this atmos- 
phere always turns with us. You have doubtless 
observed the sort of shell in which a silk-worm 
imprisons itself, and which it forms with such as- 
tonishing art. It is composed of silk closely wo- 
ven, but covered with a light down. Thus it is 
with regard to the earth, it is a solid body cover- 

Even at two leagues it is no longer discernable. 


ed with an atmosphere extending to a certain 
height, which adheres to, and moves with it, as 
the down does with the firmer substance beneath 
it. Above our atmosphere is the celestial mat- 
ter, incomparably more pure, subtile and active 
than air. 

You represent the earth in a very contemptible 
light, said the Marchioness. Nevertheless on 
this silk-worm's shell we find stupendous works, 
furious wars, and universal agitation. Yes, an- 
swered I, and while all this is going on, nature, 
who does not concern herself about such frivolous 
things, carries us all along, with an uninterrupted 
motion, and amuses herself with the little ball. 

It appears very ridiculous, replied she, to give 
way to so much anxiety, whilst one is living on 
a thing that is perpetually turning ; but unfortu- 
nately we are not assured that it does turn, for, 
to tell you the truth, all the precautions you take 
to convince me that we should not feel its mo- 
tion are unsatisfactory. How could it avoid 
giving some indication by which we should be 
sensible of it ?* The most common and natural 
motions, said I 3 are the least felt : this observa- 
tion is true even in a moral sense : the motions 
of self-love are so frequent in our minds, that for 

* There are several ; one of them is the aberration of 
the stars. Astron. Book xvii. 


i the most part we are not sensible of them, but 
. believe ourselves actuated by other princi- 
i pies. Ah ! you are beginning to moralize, said 
.she; moralizing and explaining natural philoso- 
phy are a little different ; I fancy you grow tired 
of your subject: let us return home, we have had 
enough for the first lecture. To-morrow we will 
come here again — you with your systems, and I 
with my ignorance. 

In our way to the house, to give her a com- 
j plete history of systems, I told her that a third 
had been invented by Ticho Brahe, who, from a 
determination to keep the earth in a state of rest, 
placed her in the centre of the universe, making 
the sun revolve round her, and the planets round 
the sun ; for in consequence of some discoveries 
' which had been lately made, he found it impos- 
sible to make the planets go round the earth. 
The Marchioness, with her usual discernment, 
concluded that it was mere whim to exempt the 
earth from moving round the sun, when so many 
other larger bodies were allowed to perform the 
revolution ; that the sun was rendered more unfit 
for turning round the earth when incumbered 
with the other planets, and in short that this sys- 
tem was only calculated to support a prejudice 
in favour of the earth's immobility,* without 

* The ridiculous system of Ticho was invented out of re- 


offering any thing to convince the judgment; we 
therefore resolved to retain that of Copernicus, 
which is more uniform and pleasing, and at the 
same time unmixed with prejudice. In fact its 
simplicity convinces, whilst its boldness excites 

spect to the holy scriptures, not considering that their ob- 
ject was more important than the refutation of popular 
errors on natural philosophy. 




1 HE next morning as soon as the Marchioness 
was awake, I sent to enquire how she did, and 
whether she had been able to sleep whilst the 
globe was turning ? I received for answer, that 
she already felt quite accustomed to the motion; 
and had slept as undisturbedly as Copernicus 
himself. Soon afterwards, some company came 
to spend the whole day with her ; a tiresome cus- 
tom which is always observed in the country ; yet 
long as the visit was, we considered it a great 
kindness in the guests, not to prolong it to the 
next day ; which I find is a common practice in 
this part of the world : however, as they had the 
civility to leave us, the Marchioness and I had 
the evening to ourselves. We immediately went 
to the park and resumed our astronomical con- 
versation. She understood so perfectly all I had 
said on the former evening, that she disdained to 
, hear any repetition of the subject, and desired me 


to enter on a new one. — Well then, said I, since 
the sun, which we concluded is immovable, can 
no longer be considered a planet ; and the earth is 
proved to be one, and to move round the sun ; you 
will be the less surprised to hear, that the moon 
is a world like ours ; and to all appearance, in- 
habited. — I never heard speak of peopling the 
moon ; she replied, but as a ridiculous, visionary 
hypothesis. — It may be so, answered I; I only 
adopt the interest of any party, in these cases, 
as people do in civil wars ; in which the uncer- 
tainty of the event, induces them to hold a cor- 
respondence with opposite sides, and even, when 
possible, with their enemies. For my part, 
though I believe the moon is inhabited, I can be 
very civil to any one that disbelieves it ; and I 
always retain the power of going over to their 
side without disgracing myself, if I found they 
had the advantage : but in the present state of 
the question I have the following reasons for 
thinking the moon is inhabited. 

Let us suppose that no communication had 
ever been carried on between Paris and St. Den- 
nis ; and that a Parisian who had never gone out 
of his own city should stand on one of the towers 
of Notre-Dame, and at that distance view St 
Dennis : were he asked if he believed that St. 
Dennis was inhabited like Paris, he would with- 
out hesitation answer, No; I see inhabitants in 
Paris, but I can discover none at St. Dennis, nor 


did I ever hear of any being there. Somebody 
standing by, might answer, that we certainly can- 
not see them from the towers of Notre-Dame, 
but that is, because we are at too great a dis- 
tance ; that from all we can discern of St. Den- 
nis it is very much like Paris ; that it has steeples* 
houses, walls ; and therefore is very probably in- 
habited. All this makes no impression on our 
citizen; he insists upon it that St. Dennis is un- 
inhabited because he does not see any body in it. 
The moon is our St. Dennis, and each of us is 
this Parisian who has never left the city in which 
he resides. 

Oh! you wrong us, interrupted the Marchion- 
ess ; we are not so stupid as your citizen ; when 
he sees that St. Dennis is constructed exactly on 
the same plan as Paris, he must be out of his 
senses not to believe it inhabited : but the moon 
is very different from the earth. Be cautious, 
madam, said I ; if the moon's resemblance to the 
earth prove it habitable, I shall force you to be- 
lieve that it is inhabited. I confess, answered 
she, that if you can shew me the similarity, I 
cannot pretend to deny its being inhabited, and 
I see so much confidence in your looks that I am 
I afraid you will be triumphant. The two differ- 
ent motions of the earth, which I never before 
knew any thing about, make me fearful of has- 
t ly rejecting any other opinion ; but still, can it 
jbe possible that the earth is luminous like the 
d 2 



moon ? — that you know is essential to their simi- 
larity. Indeed, madam, I replied, the luminous 
quality of planets depends on less than you ima- 
gine. The sun alone is, in his nature, luminous ; 
but the planets only reflect the light they receive 
from him. He enlightens the moon ; the moon 
reflects his rays on the earth, and the earth is 
undoubtedly in the same manner a source of 
light to the moon ; it is not farther from us to 
the moon, than from the moon to us. 

But, enquired the Marchioness, is the earth 
equally capable of reflecting the ; sun's light ? I 
see, answered I, you have an invincible partiali- 
ty for the moon. Light is composed of globules 
which rebound from a solid substance, but pass 
through any thing in which they find interstices, 
such as air or glass : the moon, therefore, gives 
us light in consequence of being a hard, solid bo- 
dy, which sends back these globules. I suppose 
you will not dispute the hardness and solidity of 
the earth. See then the effect of an advantage- 
ous situation — because the moon is at a distance 
we only view her as a luminous body instead of 
a large mass of matter similar to the earth. Our 
globe, on the contrary, from having the ill luck 
to be more closely inspected, appears only a 
mass of dark soil, fit for nothing but to produce 
food for animals ; we do not perceive the splen- 
dour of her light, because we cannot remove to 
a distance from her. So it is, answered the Mar- 


chioness, with the different ranks of society : we 
are dazzled with the grandeur of situations supe- 
rior to our own, without considering how much 
every condition of human life resembles all the 

'Tis precisely the same thing, I replied; we take 
upon us to decide on every thing, but we are ne- 
ver in a proper place for making our observations. 
We would form an opinion of ourselves, and we 
are too near ; we would judge of others ; they are 
too distant from our view. We should be placed 
between the earth and the moon to form a just 
comparison; a spectator, not an inhabitant of 
the world. I shall be inconsolable for the in- 
justice we do our world, said she, and the par- 
tial regard we have for the moon, unless you can 
assure me that the inhabitants of that planet are 
as ignorant of their advantages, and consider our 
globe a luminous body, without knowing that 
from their own we derive so much light. I can 
make you easy on that head, answered I ; we are 
certainly a luminary to them : they do not, it is 
true, see us describe a circle round them,* but 

* This is an error, for if they consider the earth's situa- 
tion relatively to the firmament, they must see that she 
performs a revolution in twenty-seven days: they certainly 
always find her answer to their zenith, or at the same dis- 
tance from the zenith, but at the same time this zenith is 
continually answering to some new point in the heavens. 
D 3 


that does not signify. The reason of our appear- 
ing to remain in the same place is this; — the side 
of the moon which was turned towards us at the 
creation, has always continued so; we always 
observe the same eyes, mouth, and other fea- 
tures of the face which, by the help of imagina- 
tion, we have contrived out of the spots on her 
surface.* If the other half were presented to us, 
we should see spots arranged in a different form : 
this does not arise from the moon's not turning 
on her axis ; she turns in the same time that is 
employed in going round the earth, that is, a 
month ; but whilst she is performing part of her 
revolution on her axis, she at the same time per- 
forms an equal part of her circle round the earth, 
and thus, by putting herself in a new situation, 
continues to shew the same side: therefore al- 
though with regard to the sun and the rest of the 
heavenly bodies the moon evidently turns on her 
axis, yet when viewed from the earth she does 
not appear to do so. All the other luminaries 
seem to the moon to rise and set in the space of a 
fortnight, but she constantly sees our globe in the 

* When the moon is viewed through a telescope its spots 
bear no resemblance to the human face ; but on contem- 
plating it with the naked eve, it is easy to imagine that form ; 
and it is become so common to talk of the face on the moon, 
that even an astronomer can hardly divest himself of the 


same part of the heavens.* This apparent im- 
mobility, were it invariable, would be thought 
inconsistent with the nature of a planet; but the 
moon has a sort of vibratory motion which some- 
times conceals a small part of the face, and ex- 
hibits a part of the other side. Now, I can ven- 
ture to say that the inhabitants attribute this mo- 
tion to us, and imagine that we vibrate in the 
heavens, like a pendulum. 

All the planets, said the Marchioness, are like 
us human beings, who always attribute to others 
what belongs to ourselves. The earth says; it is 
not I who turn, it is the sun. The moon says; it 
is not I who vibrate, but the earth : there is error 
throughout. I would not advise you to attempt 
making any reform, answered I ; you had better 
consider the remaining proofs of the resemblance 
which the earth and moon bear to each other. 
Figure to yourself those two globes suspended in 
the heavens. You know the sun always enlight- 
ens one half of a circular body, whilst the other 
half remains in the shade. There is then one 
half of both the earth and the moon, which is en- 
lightened by the sun, or in other words, in which 
it is day, and the other half in which it is night. 

* The earth always answers to one side of the moon, but 
not the same point in the sky. 

D 4 


Observe likewise that as a ball moves with less 
force and celerity after it has struck against a 
wall from which it flies off to an opposite place, so 
the light is weaker when reflected to us from a 
body that only receives it. The pale light of the 
moon is in reality the brilliancy of the sun, but 
as we receive it merely by reflection, in coming 
to us, it is deprived of its strength. Of course, it 
shines with much greater splendour on the moon, 
and for the same reason the dazzling light re- 
ceived by our globe, from the sun, must appear 
faint, when reflected back to the moon. That 
part of the moon which to us appears luminous 
during the night, is the side which has day-light ; 
and the part of the earth which is illuminated by 
the day, when turned toward the dark side of the 
moon, affords equal light to her. All this de- 
pends on the mutual position of the earth and 
moon. During the first days of the month, when 
the moon is not discernible, she is placed be- 
tween the sun and us, and proceeding in the day 
time with the sun : the luminous side is there- 
fore necessarily turned to the sun, whilst the dark 
part is towards the earth. We are unable to see 
the unenlightened side of the moon, but this dark 
half viewing the part of our globe in which it is 
day, is assisted by our light, and though invisi- 
ble to us, has the advantage of seeing the earth 
as a full moon : it is then to the lunar inhabit- 


ants fall-earth, if I may so express myself.* Af- 
ter this, the moon advancing in her monthly 
round, and no longer between the sun and earth, 
turns toward! u« a small part of her enlightened 
half, and that we call the crescent. At the same 
time that part of the moon which is involved in 
thq*obscurity of night, ceases so see all the lumi- 
nous side of the earth, and finds it continue to 

Enough — said the Marchioness, in her lively 
manner ; I shall easily learn the rest when I like : 
let me stop a moment, and trace the moon through 
her monthly circle. I see that in general that 
planet and the earth have very different degrees 
of light, and I imagine that when we have the 
full-moon all the luminous side of the moon is 
turned toward all the part of our globe which is 
obscure ; and that, at that time, the inhabitants 
cannot discern us at all, but say they have new- 
earth. I should not chuse to be obnoxious to 
reproach for obliging you to enter into a long 
explanation of any thing so easily understood, 
but the eclipses — how are they effected ? You 
could guess it without difficulty, I replied. When 

* We have a convincing proof of the light reflected from 
the earth at this time, in the dusky light perceived on a 
part of the moon that is not enlightened by the sun. As- 
tron. Art. 1412. 


we have a new moon, and she, being between us 
and the sun, presents her dark side to our lumi- 
nous half, the shadow of this obscure part falls 
on the earth ; so that wherever the moon is in a 
direct line under the sun, she hides that lumina- 
ry from our sight, and darkens a part of the en- 
lightened side of our globe ; this, then, forms an 
eclipse of the sun to us during the day-time, and 
an eclipse of the earth to the moon during her 
night. When the moon is at the full, the earth is 
between her and the sun, the shaded side of the 
earth towards the light side of the moon. If the 
earth's shadow fall directly on the moon, it dark- 
ens the luminous half that we see ; 'tis then we 
have an eclipse of the moon in our night, and the 
moon, an eclipse of the sun in her day. What 
prevents an eclipse every time the moon is be- 
tween the sun and us, or the earth between the 
sun and moon, is this; it often happens that 
these three bodies are not placed exactly in a 
line, in w 7 hich case the one that would occasion 
the eclipse throws its shadow on one side of the 
other and consequently does not obstruct its 

I am very much astonished, said the Marchion- 
ess, that there is so little mystery in eclipses, 
and that being produced by! such simple means, 
every body does not discover the cause of them. 
In truth, answered I, there are many people, who 
from the emotions they feel at one of these phe- 


nomena, appear to have little chance of finding 
out the occasion of them at present. Through- 
out the East-Indies, when the sun and moon are 
eclipsed, the inhabitants believe that a great 
dragon with his black claws is going to seize these 
luminaries ; and all the time the eclipse lasts, you 
may see whole rivers covered with the heads of 
these Indians, who have put themselves up to the 
throat in water, because, according to their no- 
tions, this is a very religious act, and will in- 
duce the sun or moon to defend itself bravely 
against the dragon. In America, it was thought 
that the sun and moon were angry when they 
were eclipsed, and every kind of absurdity was 
practised to regain their favour. The Grecians 
too, who had arrived at such a height of refine- 
ment — did they not, for a long time, believe that 
the moon w r as eclipsed by the power of sorcery, 
and that the magicians caused her to descend 
from the skies and cast a baneful influence on the 
herbs ? And were not we likewise in great alarm, 
but two-and-thirty years ago,* at a total eclipse 
of the sun ? Did not an immense number of 
people shut themselves up in caves and cellars ; 
and were they easily persuaded to leave them by 

* 1654. There have been others in Europe in 1724, 1715, 
and 1716. 


the philosophers who wrote so much to re-assure 
them ? 

Really, replied she, all that is too ridiculous. 
There ought to be a decree passed to prevent any 
body from ever talking of eclipses, lest the me- 
mory of these follies should be perpetuated. The 
decree, said I, should extend so far as to oblite- 
rate the memory of even" subject, for I can think 
of nothing in the world which is not the monu- 
ment of some human folly. 

Answer me this question, said the Marchion- 
ess : — Are the inhabitants *of the moon as much 
afraid of eclipses as those of the earth ? How ri- 
diculous it is if the Indians of that world put them- 
selves up to the chin in water; if the Americans 
believe the earth is angry with them ; if the 
Greeks imagine we are inehanted, and suppose 
we shall injure their herbs; and in short, if we 

* are inflicting on them all the terror they have 
caused us ? I have no doubt but that is the case, 
answered I ; for why should the good folks in the 
moon have more sense than we ? What right 
have they to frighten us, unless we can frighten 
them ? I dare say, added I, laughing ; that, as 
a prodigious number of men have been, and still 

f are, silly enough to worship the moon ; so there 
are some in the moon that pay their adorations 
to the earth, and that they are kneeling to one 
anothe^^If it be so, she replied, we may pre- 

iei^- 1 


tend fiJPcve an influence on the moon, and to 


produce the crisis in the diseases of her sick peo- 
ple, but as a little common sense in the dwellers 
on that globe would be sufficient to destroy all 
these honours, I must confess I am afraid they 
will have the advantage over us. 

Don t alarm yourself, said I ; 'tis not proba- 
ble that we are the only fools in the universe. 
There is something in ignorance that is calculated 
for general reception, and though I can only 
guess the character of the people in question, yet 
1 have no more doubt, that could we form the 
comparison, we should find ourselves equal to 
them, than I have that the accounts are true that 
we receive of their slobe. 

What accounts do you receive " enquired she. 
Those, I replied, that are given us by the learn- 
ed who travel there every day by the assistance oi 
telescopes. They tell us that they have disco- 
vered in the moon earth, seas, -lakes, ele\ - 
mountains, and profound abj^es. 

You astonish me, cried the Marchioness : I 
cannot imagine the possibilitv of discovering 
mountains and abysses, from the great irreguiA^ ' 
ity they cause on the surface of the globe ; but 
how do they distinguish earth from sea r Beci\ 
answered I, the water," by suffering part of the 

* It is proved that there is no water in the moon, but^ 
ere are volcanos ; they may even be^eej 

in the moon, but 


$ght to pass through it, and consequently reflect - 
f ing less than the earth, has, at a distance, the 
appearance of dark spots ; whilst the solid parts, 
by reflecting all the light, look much more bril- 
liant. The illustrious M. Cassini, who has ac- 
quired a greater knowledge of the celestial bodies 
than any man in the world, discovered in the 
moon something which separates, then re-unites, 
and afterwards loses itself in a cavity. We have 
reason to believe, from its appearance that this 
is a river. In short all these different parts are 
now so well known to us, that they have been 
named after our great men. One place is called 
Copernicus, another Archimedes, another Gabi- 
leus. Other parts have fancy names ; there is a 
promontory of decams, a sea of nectar, and so 
on ; in fact our description of the moon is so par- 
ticular, that if a learned man was to take a 
journey there, he would be in no more danger of 
losing himself than I should in Paris. 

But, said she, I should like to have a more 
detailed account of the interior of the country. 
The gentlemen of the observatory are not able to 
give it you, I replied ; you must make enquiry of 
Astolfo, who was taken to the moon by St. John. 
That is one of the pleasantest follies of Ariosto, 

cope, which was the case on the 7th of March, 1794. Pkilos. 
Trans, \ 


I'm sure you will be amused with it. I confess 
it would have been better if he had not introduced 
in it so respectable a name as that of St. John; 
poets, however, will take licenses, and we may 
venture to excuse this, for the whole poem is de- 
dicated to a cardinal, and one of our popes has 
honoured it with a particular eulogium, which in 
some editions is placed before the work. This is 
the subject of the piece: Orlando, nephew to 
Charlemagne, had lost his senses, because the 
beautiful Angelica preferred Medore to him. 
Astolfo, a valourous knight-errant was one day 
carried by his hippogrifFe to the terrestial paradise, 
which was at the top of a very high mountain : 
there he met with St. John, who informed him 
that it was necessary, in order to cure Orlando 
of his madness, for them to take a journey to- 
gether to the moon. Astolfo, delighted with the 
opportunity of seeing a new country, needed no 
entreaty, and in a moment the apostle and knight 
took their course in a chariot of fire. As Astol- 
fo was no philosopher, he was surprised to find 
the moon much larger than it appeared while he 
was on the earth ; his astonishment however in- 
creased when he saw in it rivers, lakes, moun- 
tains, towns, forests, and, what I should have 
been equally surprised at, nymphs hunting in the 
forests. But the most curious thing of all he saw 
was a valley in which was to be found ever) 7 thing 
that was lost on the earth : crowns, riches, the 


rewards of ambition, hopes without number, all 
the time that had been devoted to gaming, all 
the alms men had ordered to be distributed after 
their death, verses dedicated to monarchs, and 
the sighs of lovers. 

As to lovers' sighs, rejoined the Marchioness; 
1 don't know what became of them in Ariosto's 
time, but at present I fancy there are none that 
go to the moon. We should find a great many, 
said I, were they only those that you have occa- 
sioned. In short, the moon is so careful in col- 
lecting all that is lost here that not a single 
thing is wanting of the number; Ariosto has 
even whispered that Constantine's donation is 
there : the popes have assumed the government 
of Rome and Italy by virtue of a donation from 
that emperor, but the truth is we can t tell what 
is become of it. There is but one sort of thing 
that has not escaped to the moon, and that is — 
folly : the people on earth have taken care not to 
part with that; but to make the moon amends, 
an incredible quantity of wit has taken its flight 
thither, which is there preserved in phials ; it is 
a very subtile fluid, and easily evaporates unless 
carefully corked up : on each of these phials is 
written the name of the owner. I think Ariosto 
puts them together without any order, but I like 
better to imagine them placed neatly in long 
rows. Astolfo was astonished to find full phials 
belonging to many wise people of his acquaint- 


ance. I am sure, continued I, mine has been 
considerably augmented since I began to indulge 
myself with you in philosophic and poetic reve- 
ries : but I console myself by supposing that after 
listening to all my fancies your wits must inevit- 
ably become so volatile that at least a little phi- 
al full will evaporate, and make its way to the 

Our knight-errant found his own among the 
rest, and by St. John's permission took posses- 
sion of it and snuffed up all the bottleful like 
Hungary water : but according to Ariosto he did 
not carry it away with him ; for, it soon returned 
to the moon, in consequence of an extravagance 
he was guilty of some time after. He did not 
forget Orlando's phial which had occasioned his 
journey; he had a good deal of trouble in carry- 
ing it, for the hero's wit was naturally weighty, 
and not a drop was wanting. At the end, Arios- 
to, according to his general custom of saying 
whatever he pleases, addresses, in beautiful lan- 
guage the following apc3trophe to his mistress: 
" Who, my fair one, will ascend to the heavens, 
to restore the senses of which your charms has 
robbed me ? Hitherto I have not complained, 
but I know not what may be the extent of my 
loss; should I continue the victim of your beauty, 
I shall in the end become what I have represent- 
ed Orlando to be. However, I do not believe it is 
necessary for me to traverse the airy regions for 




the recovery of my senses ; all the faculties of my 
soul, instead of mounting to such unattainable 
height, are solacing themselves in the beam of 
your eyes, and hovering round your lovely mouth. 
Ah ! have compassion on me, and suffer me to 
take them back with my lips." Is not the thought 
pretty ? For my part, in adopting Ariosto's way 
of thinking, I should dissuade people from ever 
letting their wits escape, unless it were from the 
influence of love ; for you see how near they then 
continue, and how easily they may be regained ; 
but when they are lost in any other way, as we, 
for instance, are losing ours, in philosophising, 
they fly directly to the moon, and are not caught 
again at pleasure. Never mind, said the Mar- 
chioness ; ours will have an honourable station 
among the philosophic phials; whereas, had we 
lost them in the poet's way, they might perhaps 
hover around some unworthy object. But, con- 
tinued she, to deprive me completely of mine, 
tell me seriously whether you believe there are 
men living in the moon, for you have not yet 
given me a decided opinion. Do I believe it ? ' 
replied I ; oh no, I don t believe there are men 
in the moon. We see how much all nature is 
changed even when we have travelled from here 
to China ; different faces ; different figures ; dif- 
ferent manners; and almost a different sort of 
understandings : from here to the moon the al- 
teration must be considerably greater. When 


adventurers explore unknown countries, the in- 
habitants they find are scarcely human ; they are 
animals in the shape of men, even in that respect 
sometimes imperfect ; but almost devoid of hu- 
man reason ; could any of these travellers reach 
the moon, they surely would not find it inhabit- 
ed by men. 

Then what sort of creatures are they ? asked 
the Marchioness impatiently. Upon my word, 
madam, said I, I can't tell. Were it possible for 
us to be endowed with reason, and at the same 
time not of the human species ; were we, 1 say, 
such beings, and inhabitants of the moon, should 
we ever imagine that this world contained so fan- 
tastical a creature as man ? Could we form in 
our minds the image of a being composed of such 
extravagant passions, and such wise reflections ; 
an existence so short, and plans so extensive ; so 
much knowledge of trifles, and so much igno- 
rance of the most important things ; such ardent 
love of liberty, yet such proneness to slavery . 
so strong a desire for happiness, with so little 
power of being happy ? The people in the moon, 
must be very clever to imagine such a motley 
character. We are incessantly contemplating 
our own nature, yet we are still unacquainted 
with it. Some have found it so difficult to com- 
prehend, that they have said the gods had taken 
too much nectar when they created men ; and 
when they had recovered their calm reason, they 


could not help laughing at their own work. Well, 
we are not in danger of being laughed at by the 
inhabitants of the moon, answered the Marchion- 
ess, as they would find it so impossible to ima- 
gine our characters ; but I should be very glad if 
we could find out theirs, for really, one feels a 
painful degree of curiosity in knowing that there 
are beings in the moon we see yonder, and not 
having the means of discovering what they are. 
How is it, I replied, that you have no anxiety to 
be acquainted with all the southern part of the 
w'orld which is yet unknown to us ? We and the 
inhabitants of that part of the globe are voyaging 
in the same vessel, of which they occupy the 
head and we the stern. You see that the head 
and the stern have no communication with 
each other ; that the people at one end know no- 
thing of the nature or occupations of those at the 
other, and yet you want to be acquainted with 
all that is going forward in the moon, that sepa- 
rate vessel which is sailing in a distant part cf the 

Oh ! replied she, I consider myself already ac- 
quainted with the inhabitants of the southern 
world, for they certainly must be very much like 
us; and in short, we may know them better 
whenever we chuse to give ourselves the trouble 
of going to see them ; we cannot miss them, for 
they will remain in the same place ; but ibese 
folks in the moon 1 am in despair about ttear. 


Were I, I replied, gravely to answer you, rvc know 
not what may happen, you would laugh at me, and 
I should undoubtedly deserve it ; nevertheless I 
think I could defend myself in some measure 
from your ridicule. A thought has come into 
my head, which is whimsical enough, and yet 
there is a wonderful deal of probability in it ; I 
don't know how it has acquired the power of im- 
posing that on my understanding, being in itself 
so extravagant. I dare say I shall likewise bring 
you to confess, contrary to reason, that there 
may some day be a communication opened be- 
tween the earth and the moon. Recollect the 
situation of America before it was discovered by 
Christopher Columbus. The minds of its inha- 
bitants were involved in the most profound igno- 
rance ; far from having any knowledge of the 
sciences, they were not even acquainted with the 
most simple and necessary arts : they went with- 
out clothes ; they had no weapon but the bow ; 
they had no notion that men might be carried by 
animals ; they supposed the ocean an immense 
space, impassable by man, and bounded only by 
the sky to which it was joined. It is true that af- 
ter they had been several years in contriving to 
scoop out the trunk of a great tree, they ven- 
tured to commit themselves to the water in this 
rude sort of vessel, and went from one country to 
another, borne along by the winds and waves : 
ts their bark was very liable to be overset, they 
E 3 


were frequently under the necessity of swimming 
to overtake it, so that properly speaking they 
were oftener in the w r ater than in their ship. You 
must suppose they would not have yielded a very 
implicit credence to a person who had told them 
that a navigation was carried on, incomparably 
superior to theirs ; that by its means, every part 
of the liquid expanse could be resorted to; that 
the vessels might be detained at one spot whilst 
the billows were foaming around ; that even the 
speed with which they moved might be regulated ; 
in short, that the ocean, whatever its extent might 
be, was no obstacle to the commerce of different 
people. In a course of time, however, notwithstand- 
ing their incredulity, a spectacle new and aston- 
ishing presents itself to the eyes of these savages. 
Enormous bodies, extending their white wings to 
the blast, come sailing on the ocean with fearful 
rapidity, and discharging fire on every side : these 
tremendous machines cast on their shore men co- 
vered with iron ; guiding with facility the mon- 
sters that carry them, and darting thunderbolts 
from their hands to destroy all who attempt to 
resist them. — " Whence come these awful be- 
ings ? Who hath given them power to ride on 
the waters, and to wield the thunder of heaven ? 
Are they children of the sun ? assuredly they are 
not men V I cannot tell, madam, whether you 
feel as strongly as I do, the surprise of the Ame- 
ricans; surely no event could ever have excited 


an astonishment equal to theirs. After thinking of 
that, I will not assert that no communication can 
be established between our world and the moon. 
Did the Americans ever conceive the idea that 
there would be any between their country and 
Europe, of which they had never heard ? There is, 
I acknowledge, an immense space of air to travel 
through before w r e could reach the moon ; but 
did those great seas appear to the Americans more 
capable of being crossed ? Really, exclaimed 
the Marchioness, looking earnestly at me, you 
are quite mad ! Who denies it ? answered I. It 
is impossible you should deny it said she. The 
Americans were so ignorant that they could not 
imagine the practicability of crossing such an 
extent of water ; but we have science enough to 
know that the air is passable, although we have 
no machine which can transport us through it. 
We do more than conjecture the possibility of 
rising in the air, 1 replied ; we have actually be- 
gan to fly. Several persons have discovered a 
method of fixing on wings which supported them 
in the air, of moving these wings, and by their 
assistance, flying over rivers ; these new-fashion- 
ed birds, did not, to be sure, soar like the ea- 
gles, and their flight has sometimes cost them an 
arm or a leg ; but, however, these attempts an- 
swer to the first pieces of wood that were launched 
into the water, and which served for the com- 
mencement of navigation : there was a vast dif- 
E 4 


ference between these mere planks and great ships, 
capable of going round the world ; nevertheless, 
by gradual improvements we have learned to con- 
struct such vessels. The art of flying is but in 
its infancy ; in due time it w T ill be brought to per- 
fection,* and some day or other we shall get to 
the moon. Can w r e pretend to know every thing ; 
to have made every possible discovery ? Pray 
let us give posterity leave to make some improve- 
ments as well as ourselves. I won't give them 
leave, answered she, to break their necks by at- 
tempting to fly. Well, I replied, though flying 
be not perfected here, the inhabitants of the 
moon, may perhaps excel us ; and it will be the 
same thing whether we go to them, or they come 
to us. We shall then be like the Americans who 
knew so little of navigation whilst it was tho- 
roughly understood at the other side of the globe. 
Pugh! cried the Marchioness; if the people in 
the moon were so expert, they would have been 
here before this time. The Europeans, an- 
swered I, did not find their way to America till 
six thousand years had elapsed ; they were all 
that time in learning the art of navigation so 

* Moutgolfier's balloons, invented in 1783, have gone 
a great way towards the fulfilling of this prediction, but it 
is evidently impossible for it to be accomplished ; these 
globes can only carry us to a certain height, beyond that 
we could not breathe. 


completely as to pass over the ocean. Probably 
the people in the moon are able to take little ex- 
cursions into the air, very likely they are now 
practising ; after they have acquired more expe- 
rience they will pay us a visit, and heaven knows 
what surprise it will occasion us ! You are in- 
supportable, exclaimed she, to combat me with 
such chimerical arguments. Take care, said I ; 
if vou provoke me I shall easily corroborate 
them. Remember the earth has been made known 
to us by little and little. The ancients positive- 
ly asserted that the torrid and frozen zones were 
uninhabitable from the excessive heat of the one, 
and cold of the others ; and in the time of the 
Romans the general chart of the world was made 
little larger than that of their own empire, this 
at once shewed the grand idea they had of them- 
selves, and their extreme ignorance of the earth. 
•Men were however discovered, in these extreme- 
ly hot, and intensely cold, climates, which dis- 
cover v has greatly augmented the number of in- 
habitants on our globe. At one time it was be- 
lieved that the ocean covered every part of the 
earth except what was then known. Antipodes 
had never been heard of, and who could ima- 
gine that men would be able to walk with their 
heads downwards ? Yet after all, the antipodes 
were found out. Now the map must be altered ; 
a new half added to the earth ! — You understand, 
madam, what I am aiming at; these antipodes, 


so unexpectedly discovered, should teach us to 
think modestly of our attainments : we may yet 
know much more of our own world, and then be- 
come acquainted with the moon; till that time 
we must not expect it, because our knowledge is 
progressive : when we understand our own habi- 
tation, we may be permitted to study that of our 
neighbours. In truth, said she, viewing me at- 
tentively, you enter into the subject so deeply 
that one cannot but imagine you in earnest. In- 
deed I am not, answered I ; I only wished to shew 
you the possibility of maintaining an extravagant 
opinion, so as to embarrass, though not convince, 
a person of sense. Truth alone makes her way 
to the understanding; she can even convince 
without exhibiting ever} 7 proof: she is so adapt- 
ed to our capacities, that when first discovered, 
we seem only to have met with an old acquaint- 

Ah! this restores my tranquillity, said she. 
Your sophistry disturbed my imagination. Let 
us retire ; I am now composed and inclined to go 
to rest. 



X HE Marchioness wished to pursue our astro- 
nomical researches during the day ; but I told 
her that as the moon and stars were the subjects 
of our whimsical conversations, they ought to be 
our only confidants ; we therefore waited till even- 
ing, and then took our usual ramble in the park, 
which thus became sacred to learning. 

I have a vast deal of news to tell you, said I ; 
I yesterday told you that the moon, according to 
all appearances, was inhabited ; but I have re- 
collected a circumstance which would expose its 
inhabitants to so much danger, that I don't 
know whether I shall not retract my former opi- 
nion. Indeed I will not suffer you to retract it, 
answered she. Yesterday you prepared me to 
receive a visit from the inhabitants of the moon, 
in a few days ; now you are going to refuse them 
a place in the creation. You shall not trifle 
with me in this way. You told me the moon 


was inhabited; I surmounted the difficulty of 
believing it, and now I will continue to believe 
it. Softly ! said I ; we should give but half an as- 
sent to an opinion of this nature, and reserve the 
other half in case we should find the opposite idea 
better supported. I am not contented with 
words, she replied; give me facts: remember 
your comparison of the moon with St. Dennis. 
But, answered I, the moon is not so similar to 
". the earth as St. Dennis is to Paris. The sun 
draws out of the earth and water exhalations, 
which rise to a certain height in the air, collect 
together, and form themselves into clouds. These 
clouds hover about the earth in irregular shapes, 
sometimes shadowing one part, and sometimes 
another. In viewing the earth from a distance, 
the appearance of its surface would continually 
vary, because a large space of country darkened 
by a cloud would appear less luminous than the 
other parts, and as the cloud dispersed, would 
resume its brightness : from this cause the spots 
on the earth would be seen to change their places, 
assume different forms, and sometimes be entire- 
ly dissipated. If, th§n, the moon had clouds in 
its atmosphere, we should observe this variety 
of spots ; but we find them always confined to 
the same place, which proves that the sun raises 
no vapours from the moon. It is then a body 
incomparably more solid than the earth, and its 
more subtile particles easily dissipated as soon 


as they are put in motion by the heat. The 
moon, therefore must be a mass of rock and 
marble from which no evaporation proceeds; 
for exhalations so naturally arise where there is 
water, that we cannot admit the existence of 
water where they are not found. What sort of 
beings do you think could inhabit these barren 
rocks ; this country without water ? Ah ! cried 
she, you forget that you have assured me the 
seas in the moon were distinguishable. It was a 
mere conjecture,* I replied; I am sorry to have 
led you astray. These dark places that have 
been taken for seas are probably only deep cavi- 
ties : at so great a distance it is excusable if we 
don't always guess aright. But, said she, will 
your objections oblige us to conclude that the 
moon has no inhabitants ? By no means, an- 
swered I, we will neither decide one way or the 
other. I must own my weakness, she replied; 
I cannot bear to remain in suspense. I must be- 
lieve something : enable me to determine ; let us 
ascertain the existence of these people, or let us 
annihilate them at once, and think no more about 
them. But preserve them if possible; I have 
formed an attachment for them, of which I shall 

* This is not, now, even conjectured, for with a telescope 
we may see irregularities at the bottom of what were sup- 
posed to be seas. 


not easily divest myself. I will not leave the I 
moon without inhabitants then, said I ; for your 
pleasure it shall be repeopled. 

As the spots in the moon never vary,* we cer- 
tainly, cannot believe that there are any sur- 
rounding clouds which successively obscure the 
surrounding ' parts ; this however is not a proof ! 
that there are no exhalations ; our clouds are 
formed of vapours, which at their first rising out 
of the earth, were in separate particles, too small 
to be visible to us ; in ascending they meet with 
a degree of cold that condenses, and unites them 
into conspicuous forms; after which they 
float in the air till they dissolve in rain. But 
these exhalations frequently remain dispersed 
and imperceptible, and fall back on the ground 
in gentle dews. I suppose then that vapours of 
this kind are exhaled from the moon, for it is in- 
credible that the moon should be a large mass, 
composed of parts all equally solid, all in a state 
of equal tranquillity, all incapable of being in- 
fluenced by the action of the sun. We know of 
no body which has these properties, not even 
marble. The most dense bodies are subject to 
change, either from some secret and interior mo- 

* M. Herschel has observed variations in ihem ; which 
he, with certaintv, attributes to the industry of the inhabit- 


tion, or from the action of external matter. As 
the exhalations from the moon, do not form them- 
selves into clouds, and return in showers, they 
can only become dew ; for that purpose it is not 
necessary that the atmosphere, which apparent- 
ly adheres to the moon as ours does to the earth, 
should be exactly similar to our air, nor the va- 
pours exactly like ours ; and that I think is pro- 
bably the case:* the matter must have a differ- 
ent disposition in the moon, from that in the 
earth; consequently the effects be different; how- 
ever all that is of no importance ; since we find 
that there is motion in the parts of the moon, 
either internal, or produced by foreign causes, 
we may again people it, as we have the means 
of affording them subsistence ; of producing fruit, 
corn, water, and every thing that is needful. I 
mean fruit, corn, &c. such as the moon can 
produce, the nature of which I am unacquainted 
with ; and all these in proportion to the wants of 
its inhabitants, of which I am likewise igno- 

That is to say, answered the Marchioness, you 
are sure every thing is right, without knowing 
how it is; here is a little knowledge placed a- 
gainst a great deal of ignorance, but we must be 

* The atmosphere of the moon, if there be any, is quite 
invisible to us. 


content with it : I am very happy to have inha- 
bitants restored to the moon ; I am glad also that 
you give them a surrounding atmosphere, for it 
seems to me that a planet would he too naked 
without one. 

These two different airs, said I, one belong- 
ing to the earth, the other to the moon, tend to 
prevent the communication between the two pla- 
nets. If it merely depended on the power of fly- 
ing, who knows, as I yesterday said, but we may 
at some future time be sufficiently expert ? All 
things considered, I think we must not expect 
this communication ; the amazing distance at 
which they are placed, would be a considerable 
difficulty ; and were this obstacle removed ; were 
the two planets nearer together, it would be im- 
possible to pass from one atmosphere to the other. 
Water is the atmosphere of fishes ; they never 
pass into that of birds, nor the birds into theirs : 
they are not prevented by the distance, but the 
existence of both depends on their proper ele- 
ment. Our air, we find, is mixed with more 
dense and gross vapours than that of the moon ; 
therefore an inhabitant of that world would be 
drowned if he entered our atmosphere, and fall 
lifeless on the earth. 

Oh ! how glad I should be, exclaimed the 
Marchioness, for a shipwreck to cast a good 
number of them on the earth, we might then ex- 
amine them at our leisure. But, I replied, if 


they were clever enough to navigate the surface 
of our atmosphere, and from a curiosity to exa- 
mine us, should be tempted to draw us up like 
fishes ; would that please you ? Why not ? an- 
swered she, laughing. I would voluntarily put 
myself in their nets, just for the pleasure of see- 
ing the fishers. 

Remember, said I, you would be very ill by the 
time you reached the top of our air ; we are not 
capable of breathing it above a certain height ;* it 
is said that at the summit of some mountains we 
can scarcely do it. I wonder that people who 
are silly enough to believe that corporeal genii 
inhabit the purest regions of the air, should not 
tell us, as the reason for our receiving such short 
and unfrequent visits from these genii, that few 
of them understand diving, and even those who 
excel in it cannot remain long in our gross air. 

We see then there are many things to prevent 
us from leaving our own world and going to the 
moon. To console ourselves let us guess all we 
can about it. In the first place I conjecture that 
the inhabitants must see the heavens, the sun 
and the stars of a very different colour from what 
they appear to us. We view those objects through 
a sort of glass which alters their appearance ; 

* Respiration is difficult at the height of a league. Half 
a league higher it must be impossible. 


this glass is our atmosphere, pervaded with ex- 
halations. Some moderns assert that it is blue 
as well as the sea, but we can only distin- 
guish the colour in the parts of those elements 
that are most remote from the eye. The firma- 
ment, say they, in which are the fixed stars, has 
no light in itself, and consequently ought to ap- 
pear black,* but as we see it through our blue 
air, it seems to us to be blue. If that is true, the 
rays of the sun and stars cannot pass through the 
air without receiving a slight tinge from its colour, 
and losing a degree of that which is natural to 
them. But supposing the air is not coloured, it 
is certain that through a thick fog the light of a 
flambeau, seen at some distance, appears of a 
deep red, which is not its real colour ; if there- 
fore our air be considered only a mist, it must 
necessarily alter the colour of the sky, sun, and 
stars. The celestial fluid alone could give us 
light and colours in their original state. There- 
fore as the atmosphere of the moon differs from 
ours, it is either of a different colour, or else it 
is another sort of mist, which varies the appear- 
ance of the celestial bodies. In a word, the glass 
through which the people in the moon view these 
objects is of a different nature to ours. 

* Desaussure tells us it appears black when viewed 
at a league's distance from the earth. 


On that account, replied the Marchioness, I 
prefer our world to the moon ; I think it impos- 
sible for the assortment of colours presented to 
their sight by the heavenly bodies to be so beau- 
tiful as that they form when viewed through the 
medium of our air. Let us suppose a red sky 
and green stars ; the effect is not so agreeable as 
golden stars and a blue sky. One would think, 
said I, you were chusing clothes or furniture ; but 
believe me, nature has a good taste; let us trust 
to her for providing a set of colours for the moon, 
there is no fear but it will be a pleasing one. She 
has undoubtedly varied the appearance of the 
universe at each different point of view, and in 
all these varieties there is great beauty. 

I acknowledge her talents, answered she; at 
each point of view she has placed a different sort 
of glass, by which mean she has given the ap- 
pearance of variety to objects which remain al- 
ways the same. With a blue atmosphere, we 
have a blue sky, and perhaps with a red atmos- 
phere, the inhabitants of the moon have a red 
sky; yet this sky is absolutely the same. In 
like manner she seems to have placed various 
sorts of glasses before the eyes of our imagina- 
tion, through which the same object presents to 
each of us a different appearance. To Alexan- 
der, the earth appeared a proper place to con- 
vert into an empire, for his sway; Celadon, 
viewed it only as a fit residence for Astrea ; a 
F 2 


philosopher considers it a large planet, travelling 
through the heavens, and inhabited by a number 
of madmen. I think the spectacle of nature can- 
not be more varied than the prospects of different 

The varied appearance of objects viewed by 
the imagination, I replied, is the most surpris- 
ing, for they are exactly the same things though 
apparently so dissimilar : whereas there may be 
other natural objects visible to the moon, and 
some that are visible to us may not be seen 
there; perhaps, for instance, there is neither 
dawn nor twilight. The air that surrounds us, 
rises to some height, receives the rays of light 
that would not reach the earth, and by its densi- 
ty, detains, and conveys to us a part of this 
light which was apparently not destined for us : 
thus you see the dawn and twilight are particu- 
lar favours conferred on us by nature ; they are 
degrees of light to which we are not regularly en- 
titled, and which are bestowed on us in addition 
to our share. But the atmosphere of the moon, 
being purer than ours, is probably not so well 
calculated to reflect the rays which it receives be- 
fore the sun is risen, or after it is set. The poor 
inhabitants have not then this light, which by 
its gradual increase prepares us so agreeably for 
the brilliancy of the sun ; and in the evening re- 
conciles us to its loss, by a progressive diminu- 
tion. The moon, after the profound gloom of 


night, receives the ardent blaze of the sun, as if 
by the instantaneous drawing up of a curtain : on 
the contrary, whilst still enjoying the dazzling 
light of day, it is again plunged into extreme 
darkness : day and night are not connected by an 
agreeable medium, partaking of both. The peo- 
ple in the moon never see the rainbow ; for as 
the dawn is produced by the thickness of our air 
and vapours, so the rainbow is formed in the 
clouds which are dispersed in rain ; thus we are 
indebted for the most beautiful appearances in 
nature, to things, in themselves, far from agree- 
able. Since the moon has neither dense vapours 
nor rainy clouds, farewel to Aurora, and 
the Rainbow ! Alas ! to what can they liken the 
beauties of that country ; what a source of com- 
parison are they deprived of ! 

I should not much regret those comparisons, 
answered the Marchioness ; and I think the in- 
habitants of the moon have ample amends made 
them for the loss of rainbows and twilight by be- 
ing exempted from thunder and lightning ; for 
these likewise are formed in the clouds. They 
have constant serenity of weather; never los- 
ing sight of the sun. They have no gloomy 
nights in which the stars are concealed. They 
are unacquainted with those storms and tem- 
pests ; those elemental wars which seem to indi- 
cate the wrath of heaven. Are they then to be 
pitied ? You speak of the moon as an enchant- 
f 3 


ing spot, said I ; yet I don't know whether it is 
very delightful to be exposed throughout a day 
that is as long as our fortnight * to a blazing sun, 
without a cloud to temper the intensity of its 
heat. It is perhaps owing to this that nature 
has formed cavities in the moon, large enough to 
be seen by our telescopes ; they are not valleys 
situated between mountains, but hollow places 
in the midst of large plains. How do we know 
whether the inhabitants, oppressed by the per- 
petual radiance of the sun, may not) take refuge 
in thes.e caverns ? Perhaps they even build towns, 
and constantly reside in these parts. We see 
that here our subterraneous Rome is larger than 
the Rome which is built on the surface : we have 
only to remove the latter, and the other would 
be a city such as we should find in the moon. A 
large number of the people dwell in each cavern, 
and from one cavern to another is a subterrane- 
ous passage for the communication of the inha- 
bitants. You laugh at this idea; I have no ob- 
jection : but seriously, I think you are more 
likely to be mistaken than I. You believe the 
people in the moon must dwell on the surface, 
because we are on the surface of our globe; you 
should form quite a different opinion, and think 

* During this time the sun rises and sets as it does in our 


that because we reside on the surface they dwell 
in the interior parts ; every thing must be very 
differently conducted here and in the moon. 

It does not signify, replied the Marchioness ; 
I can't bear the idea of these people living in 
perpetual darkness. You would find it still more 
difficult to admit the opinion, said 1, if you knew 
that a great philosopher of ancient times had in- 
formed us that the moon was the dwelling of 
souls who had on earth rendered themselves 
worthy of very exalted happiness. He supposes 
that their felicity consists in listening to the mu- 
sic of the spheres ; but that when the moon comes 
under the shadow of the earth, they are no lon- 
ger able to hear this celestial harmony, at which 
time they utter the most piercing cries, and the 
moon hastens on as fast as possible to relieve 
them from this agonizing situation. We may 
expect then, answered she, to have the virtuous 
spirits sent here from the moon, for I suppose 
they likewise honour our world by making it an 
abode of the blessed : so in these two planets it 
is thought a sufficient reward to superior good- 
ness for the soul to be transported from one 
world to the other. Really, I replied, it would 
not be a trifling enjoyment to take a survey of 
different worlds ; I often receive a great deal of 
pleasure from such a journey, although but in 
imagination; what must it be then to perform it 
in reality ? It w r ould be much more delightful than 
II F4 


going from here to Japan ; in other words, than 
crawling from one end of the earth to the other 
with great labour, merely for the sake of seeing 
men. Well, said she, let us make this tour to 
the planets as we can ; what should prevent us ? 
We will place ourselves at all those different 
points of view, and at each of them survey the 
universe. Have we any thing else to see in the 
moon ? You are not yet thoroughly acquainted 
with that world, I replied. You recollect that 
the two motions of the moon, by one of which 
she turns on her axis, and by the other round us, 
being equal, the latter always prevents the for- 
mer from withdrawing any part from our sight, 
and consequently we always view the same side. 
That half therefore is the only part that can see 
our world, and as the moon, with regard to us, 
must be considered not to turn on her centre, the 
half to which we are visible, sees us always fix- 
ed in the same part of the sky.* When it is 
night, and the nights there are as long as our 
fortnight, she sees at first only a very small part 
of the earth enlightened ; then a larger portion, 
and at length the light seems hourly to spread 
over the earth, till it becomes entirely luminous. 
On the contrary these changes in the moon are 

* That is to say only at the same distance from the ze- 
nith and the horizon. 


visible to us only from one night to another, be- 
cause we are a long time without seeing her. I 
should like to hear the mistakes which the phi- 
losophers of that world fall into from the appa- 
rent immobility of our earth, whilst all the other 
heavenly bodies rise and set in the space of a 
fortnight. Probably they consider the earth im- 
movable in consequence of her enormous size, 
being sixty times larger than the moon; and 
when the poets are disposed to flatter indolent 
princes, I have no doubt but they compare them 
to this orb in her state of majestic repose. It 
does not however appear an entire immobility. 
From the moon they must see the earth turn on 
her axis. Our Europe, Asia, America, present 
themselves one after another, in different shapes, 
nearly as they are represented on our maps. Only 
imagine what a novel sight this must be to tra- 
vellers coming from the other side of the moon 
to that which is always facing us ! How incredu- 
lously they must have heard the accounts of the 
first that spoke of it, who lived at the opposite 
side. It is come into my head, said the Mar- 
chioness, that from that half of the moon to the 
other they make pilgrimages to come and exa- 
mine us, and that particular honours and privi- 
leges are destined for those who have seen the 
great planet. At least, answered I, they who 
constantly see us have the privilege of being bet- 
ter illumined during their nights; the inhabit- 


ants of the other side must be much less agreea- 
bly situated in that respect. 

Now, madam, let us pursue our journey to 
the different planets ; we have been long enough 
at the moon. Next, in the road from the moon 
to the sun, we find Venus. In talking of Venus 
I shall resume my argument concerning St. Den- 
nis. Venus, as well as the moon, turns on her 
axis and goes round the sun : with telescopes it 
is seen that this planet, like the moon, is some- 
times a crescent, sometimes on the decrease 
sometimes full, according to her different situa- 
tions relatively to the earth. The moon, accord- 
ing to all appearances, is inhabited; why then 
should Venus be destitute of inhabitants ? But, 
interrupted the Marchioness, with your why nots 
you will put inhabitants in all the planets. Cer- 
tainly, I replied, this why not has the power of 
peopling them all. We find that they are of the 
same nature, all opaque bodies, illumined only 
by the sun, and the reflection of his rays on each 
other ; and having all the same motions. So far 
then they are alike, and yet we are to suppose 
that these great planets were formed to remain 
uninhabited, and that such being the natural 
condition of them all, an exception should be 
made in favour of the earth — let who will believe 
it; I cannot. A few minutes, answered she, 
have wonderfully confirmed your opinion. Just 
now the moon was on the point of being quite 


deserted, and you cared very little about the 
i matter, and now, if one were to presume to 
' deny that all the planets are as full of inhabit- 
ants as the earth, I see you would be quite in 
a passion. It is true, said I, that in the positive 
fit I had just now, if you had contradicted me on 
Ithe subject of these said inhabitants, I should not 
only have maintained their existence, but in all 
probability have described their formation. There 
fare certain moments when we feel assured of a 
thing, and I never felt so fully persuaded of my 
opinion as I was then ; however, though my ar- 
dour is now a little abated, I still think it would 
be very strange for the earth to be so well inha- 
bited, and the other planets perfectly solitary; 
and numerous as we know the inhabitants of the 
earth to be, we do not see them all, our world 
contains as many species of animals that are in- 
visible to us, as of those that we discern. From 
the elephant to the hand-worm we can examine 
them ; there our sight is bounded : but after the 
hand-worm is an infinitude of little animals not 
discernible by the naked eye, and to which, in 
point of size, he is an elephant. With magnify- 
ing glasses, we may see a drop of water, vinegar, 
or any other liquor, filled with little fishes or 
serpents, which we should never have thought of 
finding there ; and some philosophers suppose the 
taste of these liquors is produced by punctures 
which the little animals make in the tongue. 


Mix these liquors with certain things, expose 
them to the sun, or leave it to corrupt, and you 
will find new sorts of animals. 

Many masses, apparently solid, contains 
scarcely any thing but a heap of these small ani- 
mals, which in so confined a situation find room 
enough for their little movements. The leaf of a 
tree is a world, inhabited by worms impercepti- 
bly small, to which it appears an amazing extent, 
having mountains and caverns, and so large that 
from one side of the leaf to the other the little 
worms have no more communication with each 
other than we have with the antipodes. From 
such considerations I cannot doubt of a great 
planet being inhabited. There have been found 
even in very hard stones an endless number of 
worms lodged in every interstice, feeding on 
parts of the stone. Consider the countless num- 
bers of these little beings, and how many years 
they could subsist on a quantity of food as big as 
a grain of sand ; and then though the moon should 
be but a mass of rock, we may let it be eaten by 
its inhabitants rather than not assign any to it. 
In short every thing is animated ; every thing is 
full of life. Associate in your calculation all the 
species that have been lately discovered, and 
those that we may suppose are yet undiscovered, 
with all that we are in the habit of seeing, and 
you will surely confess that the earth is amply 
stocked with living creatures ; that nature must 


delight in bestowing life since she has created 
such infinite variety of beings so small as to elude 
our sight. Can you believe that after the earth 
has been thus made to abound with life, the rest 
of the planets have not a living creature in 
them ? 

My reason is convinced, answered the Mar- 
chioness; but my imagination is overwhelmed 
with such an infinite variety and number of inha- 
bitants existing in each of the planets ; for as 
there is no dull uniformity in nature, the dif- 
erence of species must be in proportion to the 
number of beings — how can imagination grasp 
such a vast idea? Imagination, I replied, is 
not required to represent all this to us ; we can 
penetrate no farther than we are assisted by our 
sight; we can only perceive, from a general 
glance, that nature has established an. incon- 
ceivable diversity in her works. The human 
face is formed every where on the same plan, but 
still how great is the difference between the vi- 
sages of Europeans and of Africans or Tartars : 
not only in separate nations do we find a distin- 
guishing character of countenance, even among 
the same people every family seems formed from 
a distinct model. How astonishing is the power 
of nature in giving such variety to so simple an 
object! In the universe we are but as a little 
family whose faces resemble each other ; the next 
planet contains another family who have a differ- 


ent style of countenance. Probably the varia- 
tions are greater in proportion to the distance, 
and could we compare the inhabitants of the 
earth and moon, we should easily see that they 
were nearer neighbours than those of the earth 
and of saturn. Here, for instance, our thoughts 
are made vocal ; the people in another planet 
only express themselves by gestures ; farther off, 
they may dispense with any sort of conversation. 
Here our reason is matured by experience ; else- 
where experience may add little to the under- 
standing; at a greater distance, children may 
know as much as old men. In this world we give 
ourselves more uneasiness about the future than 
the past ; on another globe, the past afflicts more 
than the future ; on a third, the people are nei- 
ther distressed by one nor the other, and they 
perhaps are not the most unhappy. It is said 
that we are possibly in want of a sixth sense be- 
longing to our nature, by means of which our 
knowledge would be greatly augmented- This 
sense is most likely in some other world, where 
one of our five is wanting. There may even be 
a very great number of natural senses, but in 
the distribution of them among the planets, only 
five have fallen to our share, and with these five 
we remain satisfied because we don't know of 
any more. Our sciences have certain limits 
which no human understanding has exceeded : 
at a particular point we stop, the rest is reserved 


for other worlds, where they are ignorant of ma- 
ny things that we know. This planet is blest 
with the delightful emotions of love, but at the 
same time desolated by the fury of war. Ano- 
ther enjoys perpetual tranquillity, but with this 
uninterrupted peace, love is unknown, and calm- 
ness degenerates into ennui. In short whatever 
nature has done on a small scale, for the distri- 
bution of happiness and talents among us, she 
has undoubtedly performed on a more extensive 
plan for the benefit of the universe ; at once di- 
versifying and equalizing all. 

Are you satisfied, madam, said I ? Have I 
given your imagination room to exert itself ? Do 
you not already see the people of different planets ? 
No, answered she, with a sigh : all you have been 
saying is so vague and unsatisfactory; there is 
nothing in it for the mind to fix on. I want 
something more determined ; more marked. 
Well then, I replied, I will not conceal any par- 
ticulars that I am acquainted with : I can give 
you some information that you will acknowledge 
to be undoubted, when I tell you my authorities. 
Prepare to listen patiently if you please, for it is 
a long story. 

In one of the planets, I shall not at present 
tell you which, there is a people that are very 
active, laborious and skilful. Like some of our 
Arabs, they live by pillage, and that is their on- 
ly fault. They live together in the most harmo- 


nious manner, labouring incessantly and in con- 
cert, for the common good : above all their chas- 
tity is unexampled; it is true they have no great 
merit in it ; they are all sterile ; there is no dif- 
ference of sex among them. But, interrupted 
the Marchioness, were you not aware that the 
author of this marvellous story wanted to make a 
fool of you ? How could such a nation be per- 
petuated ? No, I replied, very coolly, they did 
not intend to make a fool of me ; all that I have 
told you is fact, yet the nation is perpetuated. 
They have a queen whose royalty consists, not 
in directing the business of the state, not in lead- 
ing her subjects to the field of battle, but in her 
surprizing fecundity, she has millions of chil- 
dren; in short the production of them occupies 
the whole of her time. She has a large palace, 
divided into a vast number of chambers, in each 
of which a cradle is. prepared for a little prince, 
and she is confined successively in all these cham- 
bers, always surrounded by her courtiers who 
congratulate her on the noble privilege she en- 
joys exclusively of her subjects. 

I see, madam, that you wish to enquire who 
are her lovers, or, to give them a more respect- 
able appellation, her husbands. Some of the 
eastern queens have seraglios of men ; she appa- 
rently does the same, but she keeps it a greater 
secret than they ; this may arise from modesty, 
but it is acting with little dignity. Among these 


Arabs who are always in action, are found a few 
strangers, in person very much resembling the 
natives of the country, though extremely different 
in disposition, for they are remarkably indolent; 
they never stir out nor engage in any business ; 
and were not these persons kept for the pleasure 
of the queen, they would hardly be suffered to 
remain amongst so industrious a people. If, in 
reality, notwithstanding the smallness of their 
number, they are the fathers of many thousands 
of children, they deserve to be excused from any 
other employment ; and it is a striking proof 
that this is their only function, that as soon as 
the queen has brought forth her ten thousand 
children, the Arabs kill, without mercy, the 
unhappy foreigners, then become useless to the 

Have you done ? enquired the Marchioness. 
Thank heavens ! Let us now resume a little com- 
mon sense, if we can. Where have you picked up 
this romance ? What poet is the inventor of it ? 
I again tell you, answered I, that it is no ro- 
mance. All this takes place on our globe, even 
under our eyes. — If I must explain the mystery, 
These Arabs are no other than bees. 

After this I gave her the natural history of 
bees, of which she had before scarcely ever heard 
more than the name. In concluding, you see,, 
said I, that in attributing to other planets what 
is daily passing here, we should be accused of 



telling the most extravagant falshoods. The his- 
tory of insects, in particular, is a collection of 
wonders. I have no doubt of it, she replied : 
the silk-worm alone, with which I was better 
acquainted than the bees, would afford abund- 
ant materials for your descriptions. A people 
undergoing such wonderful changes as to be to- 
tally unlike what they formerly were; at one 
part of their lives crawling, at another, flying : 
in short a thousand incredible things might be 
told of the character and manners of this na- 

My imagination continued the Marchioness, 
is beginning to work on the subject you have 
given me — the inhabitants of all the planets : I 
am conjecturing their figures; I can discern 
some of them very distinctly, but I don't know 
how to describe them to you. As to their fi- 
gures, said I, I advise you to leave the forma- 
tion of them to your dreams : we shall hear to- 
morrow what they have suggested, and whether 
they have been able to represent the inhabit- 
ants of any of the planets. 




1 HE dreams of the Marchioness did not assist 
her ; they represented nothing that did not bear 
a resemblance to what we see here. 1 had the 
the same complaints to make as certain people, 
whose paintings are always fanciful and gro- 
tesque, do at the sight of our pictures, — Pshaw, 
say they, these are all men ; here are no objects of 
imagination. We therefore resolved to content 
ourselves with the conjectures we should be able 
to make concerning the inhabitants of the planets 
as we continued our journey : we had last night 
I got as far as Venus. We are assured, said 1, 
that Venus turns on her axis, but it is not ascer- 
tained in how long a time, consequently we can- 
not tell the length of her days. Her years lasts 
but about eight months, as she is not longer than 
that in performing her revolution round the sun. 
She is of the same size as the earth, therefore the 
earth and Venus appear equally large to each 
g 2 


other. I am glad of that, said the Marchioness ; 
then I hope the earth is to Venus the shepherd's 
star, and the parent of love, as Venus is to us. 
These appellations can be proper only for a pret- 
ty little, brilliant, gay looking planet. True, 
answered I ; but do you know what makes Venus 
look so beautiful at a distance ? — it is the effect 
of her being very frightful when near. With good 
telescopes it has been seen that she is covered 
with mountains, much higher than ours, sharp- 
pointed, and apparently very dry.* This kind 
of surface is the best calculated to reflect the 
light with great brilliancy. Our earth, whose 
surface is very smooth, compared with that of 
Venus, and partly covered with water, probably 
looks less beautiful at a distance. So much the 
worse, said the Marchioness ; I should like her 
to preside over, the loves of the inhabitants of 
Venus; they must certainly understand what 
love is. Oh ! undoubtedly, I replied ; the peo- 
ple in that planet, are all Celadons and 
Sylvanders, and their every-day conversations 
are finer than the most admired in Clelia. Their 
climate is very favourable to the tender passion. 
Venus is nearer to the sun than we ; and receives 

* M. Herschel's observations contradict this idea. Venus 
has a very dense atmosphere, which prevents us from distin- 
guishing any thing on her surface ; the brilliant appearance 
of this planet arises from her proximity to the earth. 


more light and heat : she is about two thirds the 
distance of the earth, from the sun. 

I can see, interrupted the Marchioness, what 
sort of people the inhabitants are. They are 
much like the Moors of Granada : a little dark, 
sun-burnt people, scorched with the sun ; full of 
wit and animation, always in love, always mak- 
ing verses, listening to music, having galas, 
dances and tournaments. Give me leave to tell 
you, madam, answered I, that you know but lit- 
tle of the inhabitants of Venus. Our Moors of 
Granada when compared with them would appear 
as cold and stupid as Greenlanders. 

But what must the inhabitants of Mercury be ? 
We are above twice the distance from the sun 
that they are. They must be almost mad with , 
vivacity, Like most of the negroes, they are 
without memory; never reflecting; acting by 
starts and at random : in short Mercury is the 
bedlam of the universe. The sun appears there 
nine times larger than it does to us : the light 
they receive is so brilliant that our finest days 
would be but twilight in comparison of theirs ; 
perhaps they would find them so dark as not to 
be able to distinguish one thing from ano- 
ther. The heat to which they are accustomed 
is so intense, that they would be almost frozen in 
our Africa. In all probability our iron, silver 
and gold would be melted in their world, and 
only be seen in a liquid state, as we in general 
G 3 


have water, which in some degrees of cold be- 
comes a solid body. The inhabitants of Mercury 
would not imagine that in another world those 
liquors, which perhaps form their rivers, are the 
hardest of all bodies. Their year lasts but three 
months. The length of their day is not known to 
us, because Mercury is so small and so near the 
sun, that it exceeds the art of all our astrono- 
mers to observe him with sufficient accuracy to 
determine what sort of motion he has on his 
centre: the inhabitants, I think, must wish it to 
be performed in a short time, for scorched as 
they are with the fierceness of the sun, the cool- 
ness of night is undoubtedly very desirable to 
them. The part which by rotation is deprived 
of the sun s light, is illumined by Venus and the 
earth, which must appear very large. As to the 
othei planets, being farther off than the earth, 
they, seen from Mercury, appear much smaller 
than to us, and afford very little light to that 

I don't feel so much for its inhabitants on that 
account, replied the Marchioness, as from the 
inconvenience they must suffer from such exces- 
sive heat. Let us try if we can't relieve them in 
some way. Is it not probable they have long 
and plentiful showers, such as we are told fall 
fentinually for four months together, in our hot 
countries, at the seasons when the heat is most 
intense ? 


It may be the case, answered I ; and we have 
another way of giving them relief. There are 
some parts of China which from their situation 
ought to be very hot, and yet, even in the month 
of July and August the weather is so cold that 
their rivers freeze. This coldness arises from 
the quantities of salt-petre with which the coun- 
tries abound; the exhalations, drawn up in 
great abundance by the heat are of a cold nature. 
Mercury, if you please, shall be a little planet 
made of salt-petre, and the sun, by attracting 
the cooling exhalations, will thus prevent the 
evil it would otherwise be the cause of. How- 
ever, we may rest assured that nature would not 
place beings where it was impossible for them to 
exist; and that habit, and ignorance of a better 
climate, render this situation agreeable : Mer- 
cury therefore may perhaps do very well without 
salt-petre, or abundant rains. 

After Mercury, you know, we find the sun. 
We cannot possibly place inhabitants there : the 
why not fails in this case. We conclude from the 
earth being inhabited that other bodies of the 
same nature must be so too : but the sun does 
not resemble the earth, and the rest of the plan- 
ets. He is the source of all that light which the 
planets only reflect to each other after they have 
received it from him. They make exchanges, if 
I may so express myself, with one another, but 
none of them can bestow an original light. The 


sun is the sole proprietor of that treasure ; which 
he distributes freely on every side. The light, 
thus issuing from the centre, is reflected from 
every solid body it meets, and from one planet 
to another it proceeds in bright streams that 
intermix, and cross each other in a thousand 
directions, forming a splendid tissue of the rich- 
est materials. The grand luminary by being 
placed in the centre is in the most advantageous 
situation for animating each planet with his heat 
and radiance. The sun, then, is of a peculiar 
nature, but what that nature is, we find it diffi- 
cult to imagine. Formerly it was believed to be 
a pure fire, but lately we have been undeceived 
by observing spots on the surface. As certain 
new planets had just before been discovered, (I 
shall give you an account of these planets 
hereafter;) which entirely engrossed the atten- 
tion of the philosophers, a sort of mania for 
new planets seized their minds, and they imme- 
diately concluded these spots were some ; that 
they performed a circle round the sun, and ne- 
cessarily concealed some part of his light by turn- 
ing their dark side towards the earth. The 
learned already, through these planets, compli- 
mented the different princes of Europe. Some 
gave them the name of one prince; some of 
another, and perhaps in time there would have 
been a great contest to know who had the best 
right to name these spots. 


I don t like their plan, said the Marchioness. 
You told me, the other day, that the different 
parts of the moon were named after learned men ; 
I thought that very proper : as princes monopolize 
the earth, it is but fair that astronomers should 
have the sky for their share, and not suffer princes 
to intrude on their domain. Allow them, however, 
I replied, if territory should be wanting, to con- 
sign to them some planet, or some part of the 
moon. As to these spots on the sun, they can 
make no use of them ; for instead of planets, we 
find they are only clouds of smoke or dross arising 
from the sun. Sometimes these clouds are great- 
ly accumulated, sometimes we see little of them, 
and at other times they totally disappear. Some- 
times a number of them are combined together, 
then they are separated into small parts ; at one 
time they are very dark, at another they grow 
pale. It appears as if the sun was some kind of 
liquid ; many people think it is melted gold, in 
a continual state of ebullition, producing impu- 
rities, which the rapidity of its motion casts up 
from the surface ; they are afterwards consumed 
and others produced. Only think what amazing 
bodies these are. Some of them are seventeen 
hundred times * larger than the earth, for 

* The largest of the sun's spots are scarcely three times 
larger than the diameter of the earth, or twenty-seven 
times its bulk. 


you must know, the earth is more than a million 
times smaller than the sun.* Imagine therefore 
what must be the quantity of this liquid gold, or 
the extent of this ocean of light and fire ! 

Other philosophers say. and with great plausi- 
bility, that the spots, or at least the greatest part 
of them, are not newly produced, and then de- 
stroyed after a certain time ; but large, solid, 
masses, of irregular forms, always subsisting ; 
sometimes floating on the surface of the sun, 
sometimes partly, or entirely buried in the liquid 
substance, and presenting to our view different 
projections according to the size of the part that 
remains uncovered. Perhaps they may be parts 
of some great mass of matter which serves as ali- 
ment to the fire of the sun. However, let the 
sun be what it will, it does not by any means ap- 
pear habitable, f It is a pity - T the situation 
would be advantageous : placed at the centre, 
its inhabitants would see the planets going round 
them in regular orbits, whilst to us their motions 
seem to have perplexing varieties, which are 

* The earth is only a hundred, or to speak with more ex- 
actness, a hundred and eleven tiroes, smaller. 

f Some natural philosophers have however thought that 
the sun might be the cause of heat without being itself hot ; 
and that there was a possibility of its being inhabited. M. 
Herschel believes its population very abundant. Trans 
Philos. 1795. Decade Philosophique. 


merely the effect of our not observing them from 
the best place ; that is, the centre of their cir- 
cles. What a sad thing it is : there is but one 
spot where the study of the celestial bodies would 
be extremely easy, and at that spot there is no- 
body to pursue the study. You forget yourself, 
answered the Marchioness. Were any one placed 
on the sun, he would neither see the planets nor 
the fixed stars ; would not the light of the sun 
efface every other object ? The inhabitants 
would doubtless think themselves the only peo- 
ple in existence. 

I acknowledge my error, I replied: I was 
thinking of the situation of the sun, without con- 
sidering the effect of such an excessive light : but 
although you have so properly corrected my mis- 
take, yet you must allow me to tell you that you 
have fallen into one yourself. The inhabitants 
of the sun would not see any thing : they would 
be either incapable of enduring so immoderate a 
light, or, were their eyes sufficiently strong, of 
receiving it unless they were at some distance ; 
therefore the sun could only be a habitation for 
people without sight. In short, we have abun- 
dant proofs that this luminary was not intended 
to be a dwelling-place ; and therefore we may as 
well continue our planetary journey. We are 
now stopping at the central point which is always 
the lowest part in any thing that is round ; and, 
by the way, I should tell you that in going from 


our world to this centre we have travelled thirty- 
three millions of leagues. We must now return 
the way we came. We pass by Mercury, Venus, 
the Earth and the Moon ; all which we have visit- 
ed. Then we arrive at Mars. I don't know 
that there is any thing remarkable in this planet. 
The days there are about half an hour longer 
than ours ; and the years twice the length of ours, 
except a month and a half. Mars is four times 
less than the earth,* and the sun appears rather 
smaller and less brilliant than it does to us. — In 
short, Mars contains nothing calculated to arrest 
our attention. 

But w r hat a beautiful object is Jupiter, sur- 
rounded by his four moons, or satellites ! These 
moons are four little planets which, whilst Jupiter 
revolves in twelve years round the sun, constant- 
ly go round him as the moon does round the 
earth. But, interrupted the Marchioness, how 
is it that there are planets which go round other 
planets, no better than themselves ? It seems to 
me that there would be much more regular- 
ity and uniformity in assigning to all the planets 
but one sort of orbit in which they should move 
round the sun. 

Ah ! madam, I replied, were you but ac- 
quainted with the vortices of Descartes ; those 

* Its volume, or bulk is five times smaller. 


vortices, so terrible in name, and so charming 
in the ideas they give rise to ; you would not talk 
in this way. My wits must all go, said she, 
laughing. I must know what these vortices are. 
Make me quite mad at once : now I have dipped 
into philosophy I can't trouble myself about the 
care of my senses : spite of the world's laughter, 
we will talk of the vortices. I did not know you 
had so much enthusiasm, said I; 'tis pity it has 
no other object than vortices. 

What we call a vortex is a quantity of matter, 
whose detached parts move all in the same direc- 
tion, but allowed at the same time to have some 
little movements peculiar to themselves, provided 
they still pursue the general course. A vortex of 
wind, for instance, is a vast number of little par- 
ticles of air, turning all together in a circular 
direction, and involving whatever comes in their 
way. The planets you know are borne along by 
the celestial fluid, which is prodigiously subtle 
and active. All the celestial matter, from the 
sun to the fixed stars, constantly turns round, 
carries the planets along with it, and makes 
them proceed round the sun in the same direc- 
tion, but in longer or shorter periods, accord- 
ing to their distance from the centre. Even the 
sun is made to turn on his axis by being exactly 
in the midst of this moving matter; you will 
therefore observe, that if the earth were in the 


central situation she could not be exempted 
from this rotation. 

Such is the great vortex of which the sun is 
master ; but the planets, at the same time, form 
little vortices in imitation of the sun. Each of 
them whilst turning round the sun, turns like- 
wise on itself, and carries in its motion a certain 
portion of the celestial matter, which is read) 7 to 
receive any impulse that would not prevent it 
from following the general course : this is a 
vortex of any particular planet, and it extends 
as far as the motion of this planet has any influ- 
ence. If a smaller planet comes within the vor- 
tex of a larger one, it is irresistibly carried 
round that larger one, and altogether, the large, 
and the small planet, and the vortex that en- 
closes them, perform their revolution round the 
sun. Thus at the commencement of crea- 
tion we obliged the moon to follow us because 
she came within the. influence of our vortex, and 
was by that mean subjugated to our will. Jupi- 
ter, the planet we were speaking of, was more 
fortunate, or more powerful than the earth. 
Four little planets were in his neighbourhood, 
and he became master of them all ; and we, who 
are a planet of some importance, would proba- 
bly have felt his power if we had been near 
him. He is a thousand times larger than the 


earth ;* and would easily have drawn us into his 
vortex, and made us one of his moons ; instead 
of this we have a planet to attend on us : so true 
is it that the situation into which we are thrown 
decides the fate of our lives. 

And how do we know, answered the M a r- 
chioness, that we shall always remain where we 
are ? I begin to tremble lest we should be fool- 
ish enough to approach such an enterprizing 
planet as Jupiter, or that he should come to us, 
for the sake of drawing us into his vortex ; for I 
can't help thinking, from your description of the 
agitated state of this celestial fluid, that it must 
move the planets irregularly, sometimes urging 
them nearer together, sometimes sending them 
to a greater distance. We may as well expect to 
gain as to lose by such an eccentric motion, said 
I ; perhaps we may make a conquest of Mercu- 
ry or Mars, which are smaller planets, and in- 
capable of resisting us. However we have no 
occasion for either hope or fear ; the planets will 
remain in their places ; and, like the former 
kings of China, they are forbidden to aim at con- 
quest. You have observed that when oil is mix* 
ed with water, the oil swims at the top. Put 
any substance that is extremely light on both 
these, and the oil will support it, so that it shall 

* We may even say thirteen hundred time?. 


not touch the water : but put a heavier body, of 
a certain weight, it will pass through the oil, 
which is too weak to stop it, and keep falling 
till it meets the water, which has sufficient force 
to bear it up. Thus two liquors put together, be- 
ing of unequal weight, will not mix, but place 
themselves in different situations ; and neither 
will one rise, nor the other descend : pour on 
these other liquors which are of a nature to re- 
main separate, and the same effect is still pro- 
duced. In like manner the celestial matter which 
fills this grand vortex, is in separate strata, en- 
circling each other, and of unequal weight, like 
oil and water, and some other liquors. Some 
planets likewise are heavier than others,* each 
therefore stops in the layer which has the de- 
gree of force necessary for supporting it, and 
keeping it in a state of equilibrium; and you 
must be convinced that it can never go beyond 
this stratum. 

I understand, replied the Marchioness, that 
the different degrees of weight are sufficient to 
keep them in their proper ranks. I wish with 
all my heart there was some such regulating 
power among us, that would serve to fix people 

* The Cartesians carried their illusion so far as to believe 
that so solid a mass as a planet could be steadily sup- 
ported by the ajtherial fluid, the most subtle of all fluids. 


in the situation most suitable to them ! You 
have quite removed my uneasiness with regard to 
Jupiter. I am very glad he will let us remain 
quietly with our little vortex, and single moon. 
I feel very well contented with one attendant, and 
do not envy him his four. 

You would do wrong if you did, said I ; he 
has no more than are necessary. He is five times 
farther from the sun than we, that is, a hundred 
and sixty-fivef millions of leagues distant from it, 
consequently his moons receive, and reflect, but 
a feeble light : the number therefore compen- 
sates for the little effect produced by each : were 
they not separately so inefficient, four moons 
would appear unnecessary, as Jupiter turns on 
his axis in ten hours, and of course the nights are 
very short. The satellite which is the nearest to 
Jupiter, performs its circle round him in two- 
and-forty hours ; the next in three days and a 
half ; the third, in seven ; the fourth, in seven- 
teen; and by the inequality of their progress, 
they form a most pleasing spectacle for this 
planet. At one time they rise all four together; 
then, almost immediately separate ; sometimes 
they are all at the full, placed in a line, one 
above another ; afterwards they are seen at equal 
distances in the skv; then when two are rising 

* Calculating with more exactness, 

, 179. *r 


the other two will set. Above all I should like 
to see the perpetual variety of eclipses among 
them, for there is not a day passes in which they 
do not eclipse each other, or the sun.* Surely 
as eclipses are so familiar to the inhabitants of 
that world, they must be considered a subject of 
amusement, rather than terror, as they are 

You will not fail, I suppose, said the Mar- 
chioness, to people these four moons, though 
they are only little subaltern planets, intended 
merely to give light to another during the night. 
Undoubtedly not, I replied. These little planets 
are not unworthy of inhabitants because they are 
unfortunate enough to be subjected to a larger 

I think, then, answered she, these satellites 
ought to be like colonies to Jupiter ; that their 
inhabitants should, if possible, receive from him 
their laws and customs, and in return, render 
him some degree of homage, and always consider 
the great planet with respect. Would it not be 
needful, said I, for the moons occasionally to 
send deputies to Jupiter, who should take an oath 
of fidelity to him ? 1 must own the little supe- 
riority we possess over the people in our moon 

* Or ; we may add, in which they are not eclipsed by 
the shadow of Jupiter, which happens the most frequently. 


makes me doubt whether Jupiter has much in- 
fluence over the inhabitants of his satellites, and 
I think the only superiority he can aspire to is 
that of impressing them with awe. For of what 
a terrific size he must appear ! To the planets 
nearest to him he looks sixteen hundred times 
larger than our moon appears to us.* Truly if 
the Gauls in ancient times were afraid the hea- 
vens would fall and crush them to death, the in- 
habitants of this moon may with greater propri- 
ety apprehend the fall of Jupiter. Perhaps, she 
replied, that is the subject of alarm to them in- 
stead of the eclipses, which you assure me they 
see without fear;t for as they are exempt from 
one folly, they must be subject to some other. 
Undoubtedly, answered I. The inventor of a 
third system, which I mentioned the other day, 
the celebrated Tycho Brahe, one of the greatest 
astronomers that ever lived, felt none of the 
vulgar terror at an eclipse ; he was too much ac- 
customed to study the nature of such a phenome- 
non ; but what do you think he was afraid of in- 
stead ? — If when he first went out of doors the 
first person he saw was an old woman ; or if a 

* Thirty-six times larger than we see the moon : and 
they receive from him one thousand two hundred and nine- 
ty times more light. 

f Their solar eclipses are of much longer duration ihan 

u 2 


hare crossed the path he had taken, Tycho Brahe 
thought the day would be unfortunate, and re- 
turning in haste to his apartment, he shut him- 
self up without venturing to engage in any occu- 
pation whatever. 

It would be unjust, said she, if such a man as 
he could not with impunity overcome the fear of 
an eclipse, for the inhabitants of the satellite we 
were speaking of, to be exempted from it on 
easier terms. We will not spare them : they 
shall submit to the general doom ; and if they 
escape one error they shall be liable to ano- 

A difficulty has just occurred to me, conti- 
nued she, you must remove it if you can : if the 
earth is so small in comparison of Jupiter, are 
we visible to the inhabitants of that planet ? I 
am afraid we are unknown to them. 

Really I think so, answered I ; the earth is 
certainly too small to be distinguished by them.* 

We can only hope that in Jupiter there may be 
some astronomers who, after taking great pains 
to compose very excellent telescopes, and avail- 
ing themselves of the finest nights for 'making 
their observations, may at length discover a very 

* The eartli at that distance must appear only three se- 
conds and a half in diameter, as the planet Herschel does 
to us ; but our nearness to the sua necessarily prevents 
them from seeing us at all. 


little planet which they had never seen before. 
At first the learned give an account of it in their 
journal ; the rest of the people either hear no- 
thing about it, or laugh at it when they do ; the 
philosophers are discouraged and resolve not to 
mention it again, and but a few of the inhabit- 
ants who are more reasonable than the others 
will admit the idea. By and by they examine 
again ; they, see the little planet a second time ; 
they are then assured of its reality, and even 
begin to think it has a motion round the sun. 
After observing it a thousand times, they find 
out that this revolution is performed in a year : 
and at last, when the learned have been at great 
pains to investigate the subject, the inhabitants 
of Jupiter know that our world is in the universe. 
The curious eagerly look through their teles- 
copes, and with all their looking, can scarcely 
discern it. 

Were it not disagreeable, said she, to know 
that from Jupiter we can only be seen through 
telescopes, I should amuse myself with the idea 
of all the glasses being pointed towards the 
earth as ours are towards him, and the mutual 
curiosity with which the two planets examine 
each other, and enquire, What world is that ? 
What sort of people inhabit it ? 

Your imagination is too rapid, I replied ; when 
the astronomers of Jupiter become acquainted 
with our earth, they do not become acquainted 
ii % 


with us : they will not suspect the possibility cf 
its being inhabited ; if any one should venture to 
express such an idea, how they would laugh at 
him ! Perhaps they would even persecute any 
philosopher who should maintain the opinion. 
After all I think the inhabitants of Jupiter are 
too much occupied in making discoveries on their 
own globe, to concern themselves about us. Ju- 
piter is of such extent, that if they are adepts 
in navigation their Christopher Columbus must 
be fully employed. The inhabitants cannot 
knew, even by reputation, a hundredth part of 
the other inhabitants. In Mercury, on the con- 
trary, they are all neighbours, living familiarly 
together, and hardly considering the tour of their 
world more than a pleasant walk. If we are not 
visible to Jupiter, much less can Venus be so, 
who is at a still greater distance;" and Mercury 
must be most out of its reach of all, being the 
smallest, and the most distant. However, the 
inhabitants can see Mars, their own four satel- 
lites, and Saturn with all his moons. Surely 
then they have planets enough to perplex their 
astronomers ; nature, in kindness, has hid from 
them the rest. 

\\ hat ! cried the Marchioness ; do vou consi- 

* Venus is not farther from Jupiter, but more concealed 
by the rays of the sun. 


der it a kindness ? Without doubt, answer- 
ed I. This great vortex contains sixteen planets ; 
nature to spare us the trouble of studying the 
motions of so many, let us see but seven : is not 
that a favour ? But not feeling the value of this 
mark of consideration, we have, with great pains, 
discovered the other nine, which had been con- 
cealed from us : our curiosity brings its own pu- 
nishment in the laborious study which astronomy 
now requires. 

I see, she replied, by the number of planets 
you mention, that Saturn must have live moons. P 
You are right, said I ; and it is but just that he 
should have so manv, as he is thirty years in go- 
ing round the sun ; and in some parts the nights 
last fifteen years, for the same reason that on 
our globe, which turns in a year, there are nights, 
beneath the poles of six months' duration. But 
Saturn, being at twice the distance that Jupiter 
is from the sun, consequently ten times farther 
than the earth ; his five moons, faintly as they 
are illumined, would not give sufficient light 
during his nights, he has therefore a wonderful 
resource, the only one of the kind we have dis- 
covered in the universe : 'tis a large circle or 

* He has seven, and Herschel six. In all there are twen- 
tlve planets, without reckoning ninety-one comets known 
in 1800. 

H 4 


ring * which environs the planet, and which, be- 
ing sufficiently elevated to escape almost entirely 
the shadow of Saturn, reflects the sun's light on 
the darkened parts, and reflects it more strongly 
than all the five moons, because it is not so high 
as the lowest of them. 

Really, said the Marchioness, with an air of 
deep reflection and astonishment, all this is ma- 
naged with wonderful order ; nature had certain- 
ly in these instances a view to the wants of living 
beings ; this admirable disposition of light was 
not the effect of chance. Only the planets which 
are distant from the sun have been provided with 
moons — the Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn; for Ve - 
nus did not require any ; nor Mercury who al- 
ready has too much light ; whose nights are ex- 
tremely short, and probably considered a greater 
blessing than even the days. But stop — I think 
Mars, who is farther from the sun than we, is 
without a moon. We cannot conceal the fact, 
I replied ; he has none ; but he doubtless has 
resources for the night which we are ignorant of. 
You have seen phosphorus; matters of that kind, 
whether liquid or dry, receive and imbibe the 
light from the sun, which they emit with some 
force when in the dark. Mars perhaps has high 

* Its exterior diameter is sixty seven thousand seven 
hundred leagues. 


rocks of phosphorus that absorb, in the day- 
time, light enough to irradiate the night. You 
must own it would be an agreeable sight for the 
rocks to light up as soon as the sun was set, and 
without art, produce the most magnificent illu- 
minations, that with all their radiance, would not 
have the inconvenience of casting any heat. In 
America, you know, there are birds which in 
the dark will afford light enough to read by : how 
can we tell whether Mars has not a great number 
of such birds, who, as soon as the night is come, 
disperse themselves on every side, and give an 
artificial day ? 

I a 4:1 not satisfied, answered she, either with 
your rocks or birds. They would be pretty 
enough to be sure; but as nature has bestowed 
so many moons on Saturn and Jupiter, it shews 
that moons are necessary. I should have been 
very much pleased to find that all the worlds at 
a great distance from the sun had some, if Mars 
had not formed a disagreeable exception. Ah ! 
replied I, if you were more deeply versed in phi- 
losophy you must accustom yourself to see ex- 
ceptions to the best systems. We clearly see 
that some things are adapted in the most perfect 
manner to their end ; others we accommodate as 
well as we can, or perhaps are obliged to con- 
tent ourselves with knowing nothing about 
them. Let us do so with respect to Mars, since 


our researches are fruitless, and resolve to say- 
no more about him. 

We should be very much surprised, were we 
on Saturn, to see during the night a great ring, 
extending over our heads in a semi-circular form 
from one end of the horizon to the other; and 
by reflecting the light of the sun, would have the 
effect of a moon at every part of the circle. And 
are we not to have inhabitants in this great ring ? 
said she, laughing. Though I am disposed to 
place them wherever I can, answered I, I confess 
I dare not tell you there are any there ; this ring 
appears too irregular a dwelling. As for the five 
moons, we can't dispense with inhabitants for 
them. If the ring, however, were what some 
suppose, only a circle of moons, following each 
other very closely, with an equal motion, and 
the satellites, five of these moons escaped out of 
the ring, what numbers of worlds would the vor- 
tex of Saturn contain ! Be that as it may, the 
people in Saturn are uncomfortable enough, even 
with the help of their ring. It gives then light, 
it is true ; but what sort of light, at that immense 
distance from the sun ? The sun himself, which 
appears to them a hundred times smaller * than 
to us, seems but a little pale star, emitting but 
a feeble light or heat. And could they be trans- 

* Ten times less in diameter. 


ported to our coldest countries, such as Green- 
land and Lapland, you would see them ready to 
expire with the heat. If water were conveyed to 
their planet it would no longer be water, but a 
polished stone, and spirits of wine which never 
freeze here, would become hard as diamond. 

Your description of Saturn petrifies me, said 
the Marchioness; though just now you almost 
threw me into a fever in talking of Mercury. 
Two worlds, answered I, which are at the dif- 
ferent extremities of an immense vortex, must 
be totally unlike. 

Then, replied she, the people are very wise in 
Saturn, for you told me they were all mad in 
•Mercury. If they are not very wise, answered I, 
they are at least, I suppose, very phlegmatic. 
Their features could not accommodate them- 
'selves to a smile ; they require a day's consider- 
ation before they answer any question, and they 
would think Cato of Atica unmanly and frivo- 

I am thinking, said she, that all the inhabit- 
ants of Saturn are slow ; all those of Mercury 
are quick ; amongst us some belong to the former 
class, some to the latter ; may not that be in con- 
sequence of the earth's being placed just in the 
middle situation and participating of both ex- 
tremes ? The men of our world have no deter- 
mined character ; some are like the inhabitants 
of Mercury ; others resemble those of Saturn, in 


short we are a compound of all the other planets. 
That's a good idea, replied I; we form such a 
ludicrous assemblage that it might easily be ima- 
gined we had been brought together from a va- 
riety of worlds. We are therefore very well si- 
tuated for studying character, for this is an ab- 
stract of all the planets. 

At any rate, rejoined the Marchioness, the 
situation of our world has one great convenience ; 
the heat is not oppressive as at Mercury or Ve- 
nus, nor the cold so benumbing as at Jupiter or 
Saturn. And we are in a part of the earth that 
is not subject to the greatest degrees of heat and 
cold experienced even on our own globe. If a 
certain philosopher returned thanks to his Cre- 
ator for having formed him a man, and not a 
beast; a Greek and not a Barbarian; I think 
we ought to be grateful for being born on the 
most temperate planet in the universe, and in 
one of the most temperate parts of that planet. 
You ought likewise, madam, said I, to be thank- 
ful for being young, and not old; young and 
handsome, not young and ugly; a young and 
handsome French woman, not a young and hand- 
some Italian : there are many things to excite 
your gratitude besides the temperature of your 

Ah ! replied she, let us be grateful for every 
thing, even the vortex in which we are placed. 
The happiness we enjoy is but little, we must 


not lose any of it; it is well to cultivate an in- 
terest in the most common things. If we are 
only alive to strong emotions our pleasures will 
be few, seldom attainable, and dearly purchased. 
Promise me then, said I, that when such ani- 
mated pleasures are within your reach you will 
think of the vortices and me, and not neglect us 
entirely. Very well, said she : but will philo- 
sophy always afford me new enjoyments ? For 
to-morrow, at least, answered I: I have the 
fixed stars in reserve for you, which surpass all 
that yon have yet examined. 




1 HE Marchioness was very impatient to know 
what the fixed stars were. Are they inhabited, 
like the planets ? said she, or are they not peo- 
pled ? What can we make of them ? Perhaps 
you would find out what they are, answered I, 
if you were to try. The fixed stars cannot be at 
less distance from the earth, than twenty-seven 
thousand, six hundred and sixty times * the 
earth's distance from the sun, which is thirty- 
three millions of leagues : perhaps some astro- 
nomers would tell you they are farther still. The 
space between the Sun and Saturn, the most 
distant planet, is only three hundred and thirty 
millions of leagues; that is but a trifle in compa- 
rison of the distance between the sun, or earth, 
and the fixed stars, in fact, we don't take the 

* Or even two hundred thousand times. 


trouble to compute it. Their light, as you per- 
ceive, is brilliant : if they received it from the 
sun, it must be very faint after travelling such 
an immense journey, and by reflecting it to us 
it would be still more weakened. It would be 
impossible for light, which had twice gone such a 
long space, to appear so bright as that of the fixed 
stars. They are therefore luminous in their 
nature, or in other words, they are so many 

Do I mistake, cried the Marchioness, or do 1 
see your drift ? Are you not going to say " the 
fixed stars are all suns : our sun is the centre of 
a vortex which turns around him ; why should 
not each fixed star be also the centre of a vortex, 
turning round it ? Our sun enlightens planets ; 
why should not every fixed star likewise enlight- 
en planets ?" I need make no other answer, re- 
plied I, than Phcedrus made to Enone : thou hast 
named it. 

But, rejoined she, you are making the uni- 
verse so unbounded that I feel lost in it ; I don't 
know where I am, not what I'm about. What ! 
are they all vortices heaped in confusion on one 
another ? Is every fixed star the centre of a vortex, 
as large perhaps as ours ?* The amazing space 

* That may be the case, but we have no proof that there 
are planets turning round these stars. 


comprehending our sun and planets is but a little 
portion of the universe ? An equal space, occu- 
pied by each of these vortices ? The thought is 
fearful; overwhelming! For my part, said I, 
I think it very pleasing. Were the sky only a 
blue arch to which the stars were fixed, the uni- 
verse would seem narrow and confined; there 
would not be room to breathe : now that we at- 
tribute an infinitely greater extent and depth to 
this blue firmament, by dividing it into thou- 
sands of vortices, I seem to be more at liberty ; 
to live in a freer air ; and nature appears with 
astonishingly encreased magnificence. Creation is 
boundless in treasures ; lavish in endowments. 
How grand the idea of this immense number of 
vortices, the middle of each occupied by a sun, 
encompassed with planets which turn around 
him ! The inhabitants of one of these number- 
less vortices, on every side behold the suns of 
surrounding vortices, although the planets be- 
longing to them are invisible, as the light they 
receive from their suns cannot penetrate beyond 
their own vortex. 

You are directing my eye, answered she, to 
an interminable perspective. I see, plainly e- 
nough, the inhabitants of the earth; then you 
enable me to discover, with somewhat less clear- 
ness, those of the moon and other planets con- 
tained in our vortex. After all that you require 
me to view the people that dwell in planets be- 


longing to other vortices. I must confess they are 
so much in the back ground that with all my efforts 
they are scarcely perceptible to me. In short 
do they not seem almost annihilated by the very 
expression you are obliged to make use of in de- 
scribing them ? You must call them the inha- 
bitants of one of the planets, contained in one, 
out of the infinity of vortices. Surely the very- 
idea of ourselves is as nothing when such a de- 
scription is applied to us, when we are thus lost 
amongst millions of worlds. For my part, the 
earth begins to diminish into such a speck, that 
in future I shall hardly consider any object wor- 
thy of eager pursuit. Surely people, who fofn 
unnumbered schemes of aggrandizement, who 
are wearing themselves out in following up pro- 
jects of ambition, are ignorant of the vortices. 
I think my augmentation of knowledge will en- 
crease my idleness, and when I am reproached 
for being indolent I shall reply, Ah! if you knew 
the history of the fixed stars ! Alexander could 
not have been acquainted with it, answered I ; 
for a certain author, who believes that the moon 
is inhabited, tells us very seriously that it was 
impossible for Aristotle to avoid receiving so ra- 
tional an opinion, (could Aristotle be ignorant 
of any truth ?) but that he never disclosed it for 
fear of displeasing Alexander, who would have 
been miserable to hear of a world that he could 
not subjugate. There would have been a still 



greater reason for keeping the vortices of the fix- 
ed stars a secret ; if any body in those days had 
known them, they would not have thought of 
ingratiating themselves with the monarch by 
talking of them. It is unfortunate that I who am 
acquainted with the system should not be alple to 
reap any benefit from it. According to your 
reasoning it will only be an antidote to the dis- 
quietudes of ambition ; that is not my malady. 
The weakness I am most addicted to is an exces- 
sive admiration of beauty, and 1 fear the vor- 
tices will have no power to assist me in overcom- 
ing it. The immense number of worlds destroys 
the grandeur of this, but it does not lessen the 
charms of a fine pair of eyes or a beautiful mouth, 
they retain their power in spite of all the worlds 
that can be created. 

Love is a strange thing, said she, laughing ; 
it escapes every corrective ; there is no system 
that can abate its influence. But answer me se- 
riously ; have you sufficient reason for believing 
this system ? To me it appears to rest on an 
uncertain foundation. A fixed star is of a lumi- 
nous nature like the sun, therefore you say it 
must, like the sun, be a centre to a vortex con- 
taining planets which travel round the sun. Now. 
is that a necessary consequence ? 

Listen, madam, I replied ; we are so natural- 
ly disposed to mingle the follies of gallantry with 
pur gravest discussions, that mathematical rea- 


soning partakes of the nature of love. Grant 
ever so little to a lover, and presently you are 
forced to grant him a great deal more, and so on 
till you don't know how to stop. In like manner 
admit any principle a mathematician proposes, 
he then draws a consequence which you are 
obliged to admit, and from that consequence 
another, and thus before you are aware he car- 
ries you so far that on a sudden you wonder 
where you have got to : these two characters al- 
ways take more than you mean to give them. 
You must own that when two things are similar 
in all that I know of them, I may reasonably 
think them similar in what I am unacquainted 
with in respect to them. From that principle I 
draw the conclusion of the moon being inhabited 
because she resembled the earth ; and the other 
planets, because they resemble the moon. And 
because the fixed stars bear a resemblance to our 
sun, 1 attribute to them all that he possesses. 
You have already made too many concessions to 
draw back, you must go on ; do it therefore with 
a good grace. But, said she, in, admitting this 
resemblance between the fixed stars and our sun, 
we must suppose that the inhabitants of another 
great vortex see it as a little fixed star, visible 
only during their nights. 

That is indisputable, I replied. Our sun is 
so near to us in comparison of the suns belonging 
to other vortices that his light must be incompa- 
i 2 


rably stronger to us than to them. When he is 
risen we can discern no other heavenly body : so, 
in another vortex, another sun eclipses ours, and 
permits it to appear only at night, with all the 
other suns, then visible. With them, fixed to 
the blue firmament, our sun forms a part of 
some imaginary figure. As to the planets that 
go round him, as they are not seen at so great a 
distance, they are not so much as thought of. 
Thus all the suns are daily luminaries to their 
own vortex, and nightly ones to all the other 
vortices. Each reigns alone in his own system ; 
elsewhere, is but one of a great number. Never- 
theless, do not these worlds differ from each 
other in a thousand instances, notwithstanding 
this equality ? for a general resemblance does 
not exclude a vast number of dissimilarities. 

Surely, answered I : but the difficulty is to find 
them out. For ought we know one vortex may 
have more planets revolving round its sun, ano- 
ther fewer. In one there are subaltern planets, 
turning round the principal planets ; in another 
they may be all alike. Here they all collect 
round their sun in a circle, beyond which is an 
empty space which extends to the neighbouring 
vortices ; in other parts of the universe they may 
have their orbits at the extremities of their vor- 
tex whilst the centre is left empty. And very 
likely there are some vortices without any 
planets; others, whose suns, not being in the 


centre, have a circular revolution, carrying their 
planets along with them ; others, again, whose 
planets may rise and set with regard to their sun 
according to the change of that equilibrium 
which keeps them suspended — What would you 
have more ? Surely here is enough for a person 
who has never been beyond one vortex. 

All that is nothing, she replied, for the number 
of worlds. What you have been imagining would 
suffice but for five or six, instead of millions. 

If you talk of millions now, said 1, how will 
you count them when I tell you there are many 
more fixed stars than you discover ; that with te- 
lescopes an endless number are seen which are 
invisible to the naked eye; and that in a single 
constellation, where we might before have count- 
ed a dozen or fifteen, there have been found as 
many as we were accustomed to observe through- 
out the heavens ?* 

Have pity on me, cried she; I yield; you 
have overwhelmed me with worlds and vortices. 
Ah ! said I, but I must add something more still ; 
you see that white part of the sky, called the 
milky- way. Can you guess what it is ? — An infi- 

* I conclude, from a pretty accurate calculation, that 
we may perceive a hundred millions with a telescope that 
has an opening of four feet ; I have clearly distinguished 
fifty thousand, and my glass is but two inches and a half 
in diameter. 

I 3 


nity of little stars, invisible to our eyes on ac- 
count of their smallness, and placed so close to 
each other that they seem but a stream of light. 
I wish I had a telescope here to shew you this 
cluster of worlds. In some measure, they re- 
semble the Maldivia Isles, those twelve thousand 
little islands or banks of sand, separated only by 
narrow canals of the sea which one might al- 
most leap oven The little vortices of the milky- 
way must be so close, that from one world to 
another the people might converse or shake 
hands. The birds, at least, I think, can go from 
one world to another; and pigeons may be, 
taught to carry letters as they do in our Levant 
from one town to another. These little worlds 
must deviate from the general rule by which the 
sun of any vortex effaces, at its rising, all the 
other suns. In one of the little vortices contained 
in the milky-way the sun of that particular vor- 
tex can hardly appear closer to its planets, or 
more brilliant, than a hundred thousand other 
suns, in the neighbouring vortices. The sky, 
then, is filled with a countless quantity of fires 
almost close to each other. When they lose 
sight of their own sun, they have thousands still 
remaining ; and the night is not less enlightened 
than the day ; at least the difference is so trifling 
that we may say there is no night. The inhabi- 
tants of those worlds, accustomed as they are to 
perpetual light, would be very much astonished 


to hear of miserable creatures who spend half 
their time in profound darkness ; and who, even 
during the light of day, see but one sun. They 
would think we had fallen under the dis- 
pleasure of nature, and shudder at our condi- 

I don't ask you, said the Marchioness, whe- 
ther they have any moons in the milky-way ; they 
could be of no use to the principal planets, since 
they have no nights, and besides that, move in 
so small a space that they could not be encum- 
bered with subaltern planets. But, continued 
she, by multiplying worlds so liberally, you give 
rise to a great difficulty. The vortices, of which 
we see the suns, touch our vortex : the vortices 
you say are round; can so many circles touch 
this single one ? I can't understand how it is. 

It shews a great deal of sense, answered I, to 
discover this difficulty, and even to be unable to 
solve it, for it is in itself well founded, and in 
the way you conceive it, unanswerable ; there- 
fore there would be but little proof of wisdom in 
finding an answer to what was incapable of any. 
If our vortex were in the figure of a die, it would 
have six flat sides, which is very far from a cir- 
cle ; on each of these sides might then be placed 
a vortex of the same shape. If instead of six, it 
had twenty, fifty, or a thousand, flat sides, an 
equal number of vortices might come in contact 
with it, each resting against one of these sides, 
i 4 


You know the greater number of flat sides a body 
has, the nearer it approaches in form to a circle ; 
so that a diamond cut into a great number of 
facets, if they were extremely small, would be 
nearly as round as a pearl of the same size. The 
vortices are only circular in this manner. They 
have an amazing number of flat sides, each of 
which is close to another vortex. These sides 
are very unequal ; some larger, some smaller. 
The smallest correspond to those of the milky- 
way. If two vortices leave any space between, 
which must often be the case, nature, to make 
the most of the extent, fills up the vacancy by 
one or two, or perhaps a thousand, little vortices, 
which without incommoding any of the others, 
form one, two, or a thousand more systems of 
worlds ; so there may be many more worlds than 
our vortex has sides; and I dare say, though 
these little vortices are formed merely to fill up 
spare corners of the universe that would other- 
wise have been useless ; though they may be over- 
looked by the neighbouring vortices, yet they are 
quite satisfied with themselves. It is probably 
such little vortices whose suns we cannot discover 
without telescopes, of which there is a prodigious 
number. In short all these vortices are adjusted 
in the best order imaginable ; and as each of 
them must turn round its sun without chang- 
ing place, it is formed to move in the most easy 
and commodious manner for that purpose. 


They, as it were, catch hold of each other, like 
the wheels of a watch, and mutually assist the 
motion. It is likewise true that in a sense they 
counteract one another : each vortex if it had no 
external pressure would extend itself; but when 
it attempts to swell it is repelled by the surround- 
ing vortices, which forces it to shrink back ; then 
it extends again, and so on:* some philosophers 
think that the fixed stars give such a sparkling, 
intermittent light in consequence of this alternate 
expansion and contraction of the vortices. 

There is something agreeable, said the Mar- 
chioness, in the idea of such a combat among 
the worlds, and the reciprocal emission of light 
produced by it, which apparently is the only 
communication carried on between them. 

No, no, I replied, that is not the only one* 
The neighbouring worlds sometimes send us vi- 
sitors, who come, in a very magnificent style. 
These visitors are comets,f ornamented with 
brilliant flowing hair, a venerable beard, or a 
majestic train. 

Ah ! what ambassadors ? said she, laughing. 
We could dispense with their company, for they 

* The preservation of the starry system is more satisfacto- 
rily explained by attraction ; they are all kept in equilibri- 
um by their mutual attraction. 

f It is indisputably proved that the comets belong to our 
solar system. 


only frighten us. They only frighten children, 
answered I, because their appearance is extraor- 
dinary ; but there are many children among us. 
The comets are merely planets, belonging to 
another system. Their orbit was towards the 
extremity of their vortex, which was perhaps 
differently compressed by those that surrounded 
it ; the lower side, on that account was natter 
than the top, and the lower side was next to us. 
These planets, beginning at the upper part to 
form their circle, did not foresee that it would 
extend beyond the limit of their vortex, at the 
lower part ; in order, therefore, to continue their 
circular journey, they were obliged to enter the 
extremities of the next vortex, which we will 
suppose is ours. They always appear to us ex- 
tremely elevated, moving on the other side of 
Saturn. Considering the prodigious distance of 
the fixed stars, there must be between Saturn and 
the extremities of our vortex a great space void 
of planets. Our enemies reproach us with the 
inutility of this space, but we find there is a use 
for it, as it is devoted to the service of foreign 
planets that occasionally enter our system. 

I understand, said she ; we don't allow them 
to penetrate into the heart of our vortex, and 
mix with our planets ; we receive them as the 
Grand Signior receives the ambassadors that are 
sent to him. He does not honour them with a 
lodging in Constantinople, but assigns them one 


in the environs. There is another point of re- 
semblance, I replied, between us and the Ot- 
tomans : they receive ambassadors without send- 
ing any in return ; and we receive the comets 
without sending any of our planets to return 
their vis its. 

From all these circumstances, answered she, 
we seem to be very proud : yet we should not 
hastily form that conclusion; these strange pla- 
nets have a very menacing air with their beards 
and trains ; perhaps they are only sent to insult 
us; ours not having so imposing an appearance 
would not be so well calculated to inspire those 
worlds with awe. The tails and beards, I re- 
plied, are merely extraneous : the planets them- 
selves do not differ from ours ; but in entering 
our vortex they assume the beard or train from 
a certain illumination derived from our sun. 
This, by the bye, has not been very well ex- 
plained by our astronomers ; however, they are. 
sure it is only some sort of illumination, and 
they must tell us more of it when they can. Then 
I wish, rejoined she, that our Saturn would take 
a beard or a tail, and frighten the other vortices ; 
then laying aside his terrific appendages, return 
to us and perform his ordinary functions. He 
would do better to stay where is, answered I. 
You recollect I explained to you the shock pro- 
duced by the repulsive power of each vortex : I 
think a poor planet must be violently shaken in 


such a situation, and the inhabitants cannot feel 
much the better for passing through it. We 
think ourselves vastly unfortunate when a comet 
makes its appearance, whereas we ought to con- 
sider the comet most unfortunate. I am not in- 
clined to pity it, said the Marchioness; I dare 
say all its inhabitants arrive here in good health, 
and it must be extremely entertaining to them to 
go into a new vortex. We who always remain 
in our own have but a dull life. If the people in 
a comet have the sense to know the time at which 
they shall pass into our vortex, those who have 
already been the journey, are just before busily 
employed in describing to the rest what they 
will see. Speaking of Saturn, they say : " You 
will presently see a planet with a great ring round 
it. Then, you will discover one followed by 
four small planets/' Some of these people, per- 
haps are set to watch the moment of entering our 
system : when it is arrived they cry new sun, new 
sun, as our sailors exclaim land, land. 

I find then, said I, it is useless to attempt 
raising your compassion for the comets : I hope, 
however, you will not refuse it to the inhabit- 
ants of a vortex whose sun has been extinguished, 
and who are thus condemned to perpetual dark- 
ness. Suns extinguished ? cried she. Yes, un- 
doubtedly, I replied. The ancients saw certain 


fixed stars which are no longer visible.* These 
suns have been deprived of their light : ruin must 
have ensued throughout the vortex; a general 
mortality on all the planets ; for how could ex- 
istence be maintained without the sun? The 
thought is too dreadful, said she ; is it not pos- 
sible to evade it ? I'll tell you, answered 1, what 
some very intelligent people have imagined. They 
think that the fixed stars that have disappeared 
are not extinct, but partly darkened ; that is to 
say, that they have one side obscure ; the other 
luminous : that as they turn on themselves, they 
first present the light part to us, and then the 
dark, when that is the case we cease to see them. 
Apparently the fifth moon belonging to Saturn is 
in this condition, for during one part of its revo- 
lution we entirely lose sight of it ; at which time 
it is not most remote from the earth ; on the 
contrary, it is then sometimes nearer than when 
visible. Though this moon is a planet, and 
therefore cannot exactly guide our opinion with 
respect to suns, yet we may suppose that a sun 
can be partly covered by fixed spots. To spare 
you the pain of believing the other opinion, we 
will adopt this, which is more agreeable : but 1 
can only receive it when applied to such fixed 

* In 1572 and 1604, some beautiful stars appeared to 
burst into light, and afterwards become extinct. Astron. 
Art. 792, 



stars as have a regular time for appearing and 
disappearing, as some have lately been observed 
to do, otherwise we cannot suppose them half 
suns. What must we say to the stars that disap- 
pear, and do not become visible after a time 
that would certainly have been sufficient for turn- 
ing on their axis ? You are too just to require 
me to believe that they are half suns : however 
I will do all in my power to serve you ; we will 
conclude that these stars are not extinguished, 
but plunged in the unfathomable depth of the 
sky, and thus become invisible ; in this case the 
vortex would accompany its sun, and all go on 
as usual. It is true that the greatest part of the 
fixed stars have not any motion which removes 
them farther from us, for if they were not always 
equally distant, they would sometimes appear 
larger, sometimes smaller ; but that is not the 
case. We will therefore suppose that some of 
the small vortices, being light and active, slip 
betwixt the others, and return after they have 
made their tour, whilst the larger systems remain 
immoveable. But there is one inevitable mis- 
fortune : there are some fixed stars, which for a 
long time are alternately visible and invisible, 
and at length totally dissappear. Half suns 
would re-appear at a regular time ; others that 
had retreated to an immense distance would at 
once dissappear, and be concealed for a very 
long time : exert therefore all your resolution. 


madam; these stars are certainly suns which 
grow so dark as to be invisible to us, then re- 
sume their brightness, and afterwards are entire- 
ly extinguished. How, exclaimed the Marchion- 
ess, can a sun, a source of light, become dark- 
ened ? With the greatest ease, answered I, if 
Descartes be in the right. He imagines that the 
spots on our sun, being impurities, or vapours, 
may grow thick, collect together, form them- 
selves into a mass, and continue to encrust the 
sun till it is quite hid. If, the sun is a fire con- 
nected with a solid matter, serving as its aliment, 
we are not in a better condition ; the solid mat- 
ter may be consumed. Tis said we have alrea- 
dy had a fortunate escape : the sun during seve- 
ral years, (the year, for instance, after the death 
of Caesar;) appeared very pale; owing to the en- 
crustation which was beginning to form. The 
sun had sufficient force to break and disperse it ; 
had it continued, we should have been lost. You 
make me tremble, said the Marchioness. Now 
I know the consequences of paleness in the 
sun, instead of going to my glass every morning 
to see if I am pale, I think I shall go and look 
whether the sun is so. Take courage, madam, 
I replied, it requires a good deal of time to ruin a 
system of worlds. But, answered she, it seems as if 
time would inevitably effect it. 1 cannot take upon 
me to deny it, said I. The immense mass of 
matter which composes the universe is in conti- 


nual motion, even the smallest particles of it, 
and since there is this motion we are in danger, 
for changes must happen, either slowly or rapid- 
ly, but always in a time proportioned to the ef- 
fect. The ancients were so vastly wise as to 
imagine the heavenly bodies were of such a na- 
ture as never to alter, because they had not 
observed any alteration in them. Had they 
leisure to assure themselves of this by experi- 
ence ? Compared with us the ancients were 
young : if flowers that last but a day were to 
transmit their histories to each other, the first 
would draw the resemblance of their gardener in 
a certain way ; after fifteen thousand ages of these 
flowers had elapsed, others would still describe 
him in the same manner. They would say; 
" We have always had the same gardener, the 
memoirs composed by our ancestors prove this 
to be the case ; all their representations exactly 
apply to him ; surely he is not mortal like us ; 
no change will ever take place in him." Would 
the reasoning of these flowers be conclusive ? — 
it would have a better foundation than that of 
the ancients respecting the celestial bodies ; and 
had there never to this day been observed any 
change in the heavens, though they should ap- 
pear likely to remain much longer without alter- 
ation, 1 would not yet decide on them ; I should 
think more experience necessary. Should the 
term of our existence, which is but a moment, 


be the measure for other durations ? Ought we 
to assert that what has lasted a hundred thou- 
sand times longer than we, must last for ever ? 
No, ages on ages of our duration would scarcely 
be any indication of immortality. Truly, said 
the ■Marchioness, I think these worlds can have 
no pretensions to it. 1 shall not do them the ho- 
nour to compare them with the gardener who 
outlives so many transient flowers ; they are 
but as those flowers themselves, springing up 
and fading away, one after another : for I sup- 
pose, if old stars disappear, new ones become 
visible ; the species cannot otherwise be conti- 
nued. Yes, answered I, we need not fear the 
extinction of the species. Some will tell you 
these new stars are only suns which re-approach 
us after having been for a long time at a distant 
part of the heavens. Others think they are suns 
that have broken through the crust that began to 
cover them. I easily conceive the possibility of 
all this ; but I think it equally possible for new 
suns to be created. Why should not the matter 
that is fit to compose a sun, after having been 
dispersed in various places, be at length gather- 
ed together in one spot and then become the 
foundation of a new system of worlds ? I am 
the more inclined to this opinion because it an- 
swers better to the grand idea I entertain of the 
works of nature. Has she no way of producing 
and destroying plants and animals but by a con- 


tinual revolution ? I am persuaded, and I doubt 
not that by this time you are so too, that she ex- 
erts the same power with respect to the worlds. 
But on such subjects we can only form conjec- 
tures. The fact is that for nearly a century past, 
in which, by the help of telescopes, almost a 
new heaven has been discovered, unknown to the 
ancients, there have been few of the constella- 
tions in which some sensible alteration has not 
taken place ;* the greatest number of changes is 
observed in the milky-way, as if more motion 
and bustle existed among this heap of worlds. 
Really, said the Marchioness, I find the worlds, 
in short all the heavenly bodies, so liable to 
change that I have quite overcome the horror I 
felt at the idea of the suns being extinguished. 
Well, replied I, to prevent you from relapsing, 
we will say no more about them, we are arrived 
at the uppermost part of the heavens, and to in- 
form you whether there are any stars beyond 
that, exceeds my skill. You may place more 
worlds or not; just as you are disposed. These 
invisible countries should, in propriety, be left 
to the philosophers : they may imagine them to 
exist, or not exist, or to exist in any way they 
chuse. I shall content myself with having directed 
your mind to all that is discernible by your sight, 

* This is not proved. 


Ah ! she exclaimed, then I am acquainted 
with the whole system of the universe ! how- 
learned I am ! Yes, said 1, you are learned 
enough in all reason, and your knowledge is at- 
tended with this convenience, — you may extract 
your belief of all I have told you whenever you 
think proper, I only ask as a reward for my 
trouble, that whenever you see the sun, the sky, 
and the stars, you will think on me.* 

* As I have given these conversations to the public, I 
think it would not be right to conceal any thing which pass- 
ed on the subject I shall publish another dialogue of the 
same kind that we had a long while after these. It shall be 
entitled the u Sixth Evening/' as the rest were evening 

K 2 






Jl OR a long time the Marchioness and I said 
nothing about the plurality of worlds, we had ap- 
parently forgotten that we had ever talked on the 
subject. I went one day to her house, and just 
as I entered, two men of some talents and cele- 
brity were going out. You see. said she, what 
visitors I have had ; I assure you they are gone 
away with a suspicion that you have turned my 
brain. I should be very proud of such an at- 
chievement, answered I ; it would shew my 
power, for I think one could not devise a more 
difficult undertaking. Well, replied she, I am 
afraid you have accomplished it. I don't know 
how it happened, but whilst my two friends, 
whom you met at the door, were here, the con- 
versation turned on the plurality of worlds ; per- 
haps they had an invidious design in directing it 
to that subject. I immediately told them all 


the planets were inhabited. One of them said 
he was certain I could not be of that opinion : in 
the most unaffected manner, I maintained my 
sincerity ; he continued to think I was only feign- 
ing, and I believe he had too great a regard for 
me to admit the possibility of my having really 
adopted so extravagant an opinion. The other, 
from esteeming me less, did not doubt my veraci- 
ty. Why have you made me obstinately adhere 
to sentiments which people who have the greatest 
friendship for me will not suffer themselves to be- 
lieve me possessed with ? But, madam, answered 1, 
why did you maintain these opinions seriously, 
when talking with persons that I am sure would 
not gravely argue on any subject ? Should we thus 
trifle with the inhabitants of the planets ? Let 
us, who believe their existence, be content to 
remain a little select band, and not disclose our 
mysteries to the vulgar. Vulgar ! exclaimed 
she ; do you reckon those two men among the 
vulgar ? They have good understandings, said 
I ; but they never reason. Grave reasoners, 
who are austere people, would not hesitate to 
place them in that class. They however take 
their revenge by ridiculing the reasoners. We 
should if possible accommodate ourselves to per- 
sons of both characters ; it would have been bet- 
ter to speak jestingly of the planetary inhabitants 
to such men as your two friends, since they are 
accustomed to pleasantry, than to enter on an 
k 3 


argument, for which they have no talents. You 
would have retained their good opinion without 
depriving the planets of a single inhabitant. 
Would you have meanly sacrificed the truth ? an- 
swered she. Where is your conscience ? I must 
own, I replied, I have not much zeal for truths 
of this nature ; I would readily forbear to main- 
tain them if it suited my convenience. 

The cause which prevents people from believ- 
ing the planets to be inhabited is, that they ap- 
pear to them only bodies placed in the heavens 
to give light, instead of globes consisting of mea- 
dows and fruitful countries. We readily believe 
that meadows and fields are inhabited, but it is 
thought ridiculous to assert that mere luminous 
bodies are. 'Tis in vain that reason in- 
forms us of fields in the planets ; reason comes 
too late, the first coup-d'ceil has impressed our 
minds before-hand, and this impression is not 
willingly parted with. The planets, 'tis said, are 
only luminous bodies ; what sort of inhabitants 
then can they have ? Our imaginations do not 
enable us to distinguish their figures, therefore 
it is the shortest way to deny their existence. 
Would you require me, for the sake of establish- 
ing the idea of these inhabitants, whose interest 
cannot be very dear to me, to attack all the 
powers of the senses and the imagination ? Such 
an enterprise would demand a vast deal of cou- 
rage. Men are not easily persuaded to see 


through their reason, rather than their eyes. 
Some few persons are rational enough to believe, 
after a thousand proofs have been given them, that 
the planets are worlds like ours, but they do not 
believe it in the same way they would do, if they 
had not seen them apparently so different ; they 
always recur to the first idea they had formed, 
and can never wholly divest themselves of it. 
These people seem to condescend to oar opinion, 
and only patronize it from a love of singularity. 

Is not that enough, said she ; for an opinion 
that is merely probable ? You would be asto- 
nished, answered I, if I told you the word pro- 
bable was too modest for the occasion. Is it 
merely probable that Alexander has been in ex- 
istence ? No, you consider it certain ; and what 
is the ground of your certainty ? Is it not that 
you have had every proof that such a subject re- 
quires, and that no circumstance leads you to 
doubt the fact ? You have never seen Alexander, 
nor have you any mathematical demonstration 
of his existence. What would you say if this 
were the case with respect to the inhabitants of 
the planets ? We cannot shew them to you, nor 
can you require us to demonstrate their being, 
in a mathematical way ; but you have all the 
evidence that can be desired : the entire resem- 
blance between the planets and the inhabited 
earth ; the impossibility of imagining any other 
use for which they could be created ; the fruit- 
K 4 


fulness and magnificence of nature ; the atten- 
tion she seems to have paid to the wants of their 
inhabitants, such as giving moons to those pla- 
nets that were very remote from the sun, and the 
greatest number of moons to the most distant : 
and it is an important consideration that every 
thing is on that side of the question, without any 
objections to counterbalance it; you cannot for 
a moment doubt unless you resume the vulgar 
mode of seeing and thinking. In fact it is im- 
possible to have more evidence, and evidence of 
a more determinate kind ; how then can you 
treat this opinion as a mere probability ? But 
do you think, said she, I can feel as certain 
that the planets are inhabited, as that Alex- 
ander has been in existence ? By no means, I 
replied; for although, on the subject we are 
speaking of we have as many proofs as in 
our situation we can receive, yet these proofs 
are not numerous. I protest, exclaimed she, 
I'll renounce these planetary inhabitants, for 
I don't know whether to believe there are 
any or not — it is not certain, yet it is more 
than possible — I am quite perplexed. Do 
not be discouraged, madam, I replied. Clocks 
that are made in the most common manner shew 
the hour ; those only that are made with more 
exquisite art, indicate the minutes ; in like man- 
ner common minds see a great difference between 
probability and absolute certainty ; but it is only 
superior understandings that ascertain the degrees 


of certainty or of probability, and who, if 1 may 
use the expression, can tell the minutes as well 
as the hours. Place the inhabitants of the pla- 
nets a little below Alexander in point of certain- 
ty, but above a vast number of historical rela- 
tions which are not entirely proved ; I think that 
is their proper place. I love order, said she, 
you do me a kindness in giving arrangement to 
my ideas : why did you not do this before ? Be- 
cause, answered J, whether you attribute to this 
idea a little more, or a little less certainty than 
it possesses is not of much consequence. I am 
certain you do not feel so assured as you ought 
to do of the earth's motion : are you the less hap- 
py on that account ? Oh ! as to that opinion, 
I am sure I do my duty ; you have no right to 
complain of me, for I firmly believe that the 
earth turns. Yet I have not given you the most 
convincing proof of it, answered I. You use me 
very ill, said she, to make one believe things 
without sufficient reason ; am I unworthy to hear 
the best arguments ? 1 wished to prove my opi- 
nions, I replied, by easy, entertaining argu- 
ments; would you have had me make use of 
such solid, sturdy ones as I should have attacked 
a doctor with ? Certainly, said she ; now fancy 
me a doctor, and let me have this new proof of 
the earth's motion. 

With all my heart, answered I ; it is this, and 
I am vastly pleased with it, because I think I 


found it out myself ; but it is so good and so na- 
tural that I can hardly hope to have been the 
inventor- I am sure an obstinate learned man 
who wished to oppose it, would be forced to talk 
a great deal on the occasion ; and that is the on- 
ly way in which a scholar can be overcome. It 
is evident either that all the heavenly bodies go 
round the earth in four-and-twenty hours, or 
the earth, turning on her axis, only imagines the 
motion in them. It is the most improbable thing 
in the world that they should in reality go round 
the earth in that short space of time, though we 
are not at first aware of the absurdity of such an 
opinion. All the planets certainly revolve round 
the sun : but these revolutions are unequal from 
the unequal distances at which they are placed 
from the sun : the most remote, as we might 
naturally suppose, take a longer time than the 
rest. This order is observed even in the satel- 
lites that go round a large planet. Jupiter's four 
moons, and the five belonging to Saturn, require 
a longer or shorter time to move round their pla- 
net according to their distance from it. It is 
further ascertained that the planets have a rota- 
tion on their own axis ; the time of this is like- 
wise unequal ; we cannot tell the cause of such 
inequality, whether it depends on the different 
size, or the degree of solidity of the planets, or 
on the different degrees of rapidity of the vortices 
in which they are enclosed, and the liquid mat- 


ter by which they are carried along ;* this ine- 
quality however is certain, and in general we 
find that the order of nature is such as to admit 
of particular variations in things that are regu- 
lated by the same rules. 

I understand, said the Marchioness; 1 am 
quite of your opinion ; if the planets moved round 
the earth, the time employed by each w r ouid be 
different, according to their various distances, as 
is the case in their revolutions round the sun : is 
not that what you mean ? Precisely so, madam, 
answered I ; their unequal distances from the 
earth would produce an inequality in their revo- 
lutions round her : and the fixed stars, being so 
extremely remote from us, so far beyond all that 
could have a general movement round us, at 
least situated in a place where such a motion 
must be very feeble, is there any probability of 
their revolving round us in four- and- twenty hours, 
like the moon which is so near to us ? Ought 
not the comets likewise which do not belong to 
our vortex, which have such irregular courses, 
and such different degrees of swiftness, to be ex- 
empted from performing this daily circle round 
our world ? No, planets, fixed stars, and co- 
mets too, must all turn round the earth ! Were 

* We can assign no reason ; the irregularity depends on 
the original cause, whatever that cause may be, which at 
first determined their motions. 


there but a few minutes difference in the time of I 
their revolutions we might be satisfied with it ; 
but they are all exactly equal, never varying in 
the slightest degree ; surely this is a suspicious 

Oh ! replied the Marchioness, I could venture 
to say this exactitude existed only in our imagi- 
nations. I am glad that any thing inconsistent 
with the genius of nature, which this equality in 
so many moving bodies would be, should depend 
on our motion, and she, even at our expense, be 
free from the charge of inconsistency. For my 
part, said I, I dislike a perfect regularity, and 
I don't approve of the earth's turning every day 
on her axis in exactly twenty-four hours ; I am 
disposed to think the time varies. Varies ! she 
exclaimed ; do not our clocks shew that it is al- 
ways equal ? Oh ! replied I, I don't depend on 
clocks, they cannot always be perfectly right ; 
and should they be so, and sometimes shew that 
the earth has made a longer or shorter tour in 
four-and-twenty hours than usual, it would be 
thought that we ought rather to suspect them of 
being wrong than to attribute any irregularity to 
the revolutions of the earth. That is paying an 
extravagant respect to her, I should depend no 
more on the earth than on a clock ; the one might 
be put out of sorts almost by the same causes as 
the other, only I think it would take longer time 
to produce a sensible irregularity in the earth ; 


that is the only advantage I should allow her to 
jj have over a clock. Might not the earth by de- 
. grees get nearer to the sun, and then, finding 
herself in a situation where the matter was agi- 
tated with greater violence, perform her motion 
on her axis, and her revolution round the sun, 
in a shorter time ? In that case the years would 
be shorter, and the days too, but we should not 
perceive the difference, for we should still divide 
! the year into three hundred and sixty-five days, 
and the days into twenty-four hours. So that with- 
out living longer than we do now, we should live 
a greater number of years : and on the contrary, 
if the earth were to remove farther from the sun, 
we should live fewer years, although our lives 
would be as long. In all probability, said she, 
if that were possible, a long succession of ages 
would make but a trifling difference. True, I 
( replied ; nature does nothing abruptly, her me- 
thod is to effect every alteration by such gentle 
gradations that it is scarcely perceptible to us. 
We hardly observe even the changes of seasons ; 
others that are produced much more slowly must 
: in general escape our notice. Nevertheless every 
I thing is subject to mutability; even a certain la- 
dy who has been seen, through telescopes, in the 
moon for about forty years, appears considera- 
bly older. She used to be rather handsome ; 
now her cheeks are fallen away, her nose and chin 
are beginning to meet ; in short all her charms 


are fled, and it is even feared that her life is near 
its close.* 

What are you talking of? cried the Marchion- 
ess. 1 am not jesting, I replied. A figure has 
been observed in the moon which resembled a 
woman's head rising from among the rocks, and 
in that part an alteration is perceived. Some 
pieces have fallen off a mountain, and left the 
points which appear like the forehead, nose and 
chin of an old woman. Does it not seem, said 
she, as if some malignant power had a spite 
against beauty, since the young lady's head is 
the only spot in the moon that has undergone a 
change. Perhaps, answered I, to make amends, 
the alterations on our globe may give additional 
beauty to some face observed by the inhabitants 
of the moon, 1 mean some face formed like those 
of the people in that planet, for we always try 
to discover in distant objects, the resemblance 
of what we continually think of. Our astrono- 
mers discern young ladies' faces in the moon ; 
probably if women were to examine it they would 
find handsome male faces. If I were to look, I 
don't know whether I should not see your like* 

* We are not assured that this alteration has taken place 
in the part of the moon that has some resemblance to a wo- 
man's head : but there must be changes, if we judge by the 
volcano which has been repeatedlv observed. Astron. 
Art. 3339 


ness, madam. I must undoubtedly, said she, 
feel myself obliged to any body who could find 
me there; but let us return to what we were 
talking of just now; are there any considerable 
alterations on the earth ? In all probability there 
are, answered I. Many high mountains, at a 
great distance from the sea, have on them beds 
of shells, which shew that they were formerly 
covered with water. Sometimes likewise, at a 
distance from the sea, are found stones contain- 
ing petrified fishes. How could they have 
got to that place unless the water had 
been there ? Fables tell us, that Hercules se- 
parated with his hands two mountains called 
Calpe and Abila, which being situated between 
Africa and Spain obstructed the ocean ; and the 
sea immediately rushed in violently, and formed 
the great gulph that we call the Mediteranean. 
Fables are not altogether fabulous; they are 
histories of remote periods, disguised by two 
very ancient and common defects ; ignorance, and 
a love of the marvellous. It is not very credible 
that Hercules separated the two mountains with 
his hands; but I can easily believe that in the 
time of some Hercules, (for there have been fif- 
ty), the ocean may have torn asunder, perhaps 
with the assistance of an earthquake, two moun- 
tains more feeble than the rest and have by that 
means rushed in betweenEurope and Africa. Then 
a new spot was discovered on our globe, by the 


people in the moon, for you recollect. •/.:.: 
that the water forms a dark spot. I: : c Sie 
ral opinion that Sicily has b : 
Italy, and Cyprus from Syria : ne - i have 

sometimes been formed in the c -u : . ; earthqc 
have ingulfed fome mountains, 
others, as well as changed the course of rivers. 
Philosophers give us reason to fear that the king- 
dom of Naples and Sicily, being over great 
terranean vaults rilled with sulphur, will some 
time or other fall in. when the vaults are no k tig- 
er strong enough to resist the fires contain 
them, which now have vent penings as 

Vesuvius and .Etna. All this will be sufficient 
to diversify a little the appearance we ma 
the inhabitants of the moon. 

I would rather tire them said the Marchioness. 
with a monotonous appear a: 
them by the ruin of provinces. 

That is nothing, answered I, to what takes 
r in Jupiter. He appea: v surrounded 

belts, which are distinguish^ 

the spaces betwixt them, by 
; flight These are land and ir u- 
ur at least parts of the plan 
nature. Sometimes these lar. 
sometimes wider. Ne? formed: 

rious parts, and some of the old ones disapy 
and all these changes visible only thrc 
Lest telescopes, arc 


considerable than if our ocean were to inundate 
all the land, and leave its own bed to form new 
continents. Unless the inhabitants of Jupiter 
are amphibious, and live with equal ease either 
on land or in water, I hardly know what can be- 
come of them.* We see likewise great altera- 
tions on the surface of Mars, even from one 
month to another. In that short time seas over- 
flow large continents, and retire by a flux and 
reflux a thousand times more violent than ours ; 
or if this be not the case, some change equiva- 
lent to it takes place. Our planet is very quiet 
compared with these ; we have great reason to 
congratulate ourselves, especially if it is true 
that in Jupiter countries as extensive as Europe 
have been set on fire. Set on fire ! cried the 
Marchioness ; that would be a great piece of 
news there. It would indeed, answered I. We 
have observed in Jupiter, for perhaps twenty 
years, a long stream of light more brilliant than 
the rest of the planet .f we have had deluges 
here, but very seldom ; perhaps in Jupiter they 
have now and then a large conflagration as well 
as frequent deluges. But be that as it may, the 
brilliant light I spoke of is very different from 

* These lands surrounding Jupiter, which are sometimes 
few, and sometimes in great numbers, are apparently 

f I don't know that this observation is authentic. 


another, which apparently is as old as the world, 
though it has but lately been discovered.* How 
can a light be formed for concealment ? said she, 
that is something quite out of the common way. 

This light, I replied, is only visible at twilight, 
which it most frequently long enough, and of 
sufficient power to conceal it ; and when it is 
not hid by the twilight, either the vapours of 
the horizon prevent us from seeing it, or without 
great attention we may even mistake it for twi- 
light. However, about thirty years since it was 
discovered with certainty, and for some time 
gave great delight to the astronomers, whose 
curiosity wanted stimulating by something new. 
They might find as many new subaltern planets 
as they chose without feeling any interest in them. 
The two last moons of Saturn, for instance, did 
not enrapture them as Jupiter's satellites had 
done ; custom destroys the power of every thing. 

We see, during a month before and after the 
equinox of March, when the sun is set and the 
twilight disappeared, a sort of whitish light re- 
sembling the tail of a comet. It is seen before 
the dawn and sun-rise, towards the equinox of 
September, and morning and night towards the 
winter solstice. At other times, as I have be- 
fore said, the twilight conceals it ; for we have 

The zodical light. Astron, Art. 8H 


reason to believe it always exists. It has lately 
been conjectured that it is produced by a large 
mass of matter, somewhat dense, which environs 
the sun for a certain extent. The greatest part 
of his rays penetrate this covering, and come to 
us in a straight line ; but some of these rays by 
striking against the internal surface are reflected 
back to us, either before the direct rays can 
reach us in the morning, or after they have 
ceased to enlighten us in the evening. As these 
reflected rays come from a higher region than 
the direct ones, it is therefore earlier when we 
receive them, and later before we lose them. 

On this ground I must retract what I said on 
the probability of the moon having no twilight, 
for want of a surrounding atmosphere as dense 
as that of the earth. She is no loser by it, if she 
can receive a twilight through this thick air 
which surrounds the sun, and reflects his light 
to places which could not have his direct rays. 
Then, enquired the Marchioness, will not this 
be a source of twilight to all the planets, without 
the necessity of a dense atmosphere to environ 
each, since that which surrounds the sun may 
produce the same effect for all the planets in the 
vortex ? From the frugality of nature, I am dis- 
posed to believe she has effected the purpose by 
this mean only. Yet, said I, in spite of this 
frugality, the earth would have two causes of 
twilight, one of which (the dense air before the 
l 2 


sun), would be useless, and could only serve as 
an object of curiosity to the frequenters of the 
observatory : but it may be that the earth alone 
sends out exhalations sufficiently gross to produce 
twilight ; and therefore a general resource has 
been provided for the other planets, if their 
evaporations are more pure and subtile. We? 
perhaps, of the inhabitants of all the worlds in 
our vortex breathe the grossest air ; did the peo- 
ple of the other planets know that, with what 
contempt they would survey us ! 

That would be wrong, answered the Marchion- 
ess ; we are not contemptible for being surround- 
ed by a thick atmosphere since the sun himself is 
in the same situation. Tell me, is not this air 
produced by certain vapours that you former- 
ly told me issued from the sun ; and may it not 
be to moderate the power of the first rays which 
perhaps would otherwise be excessive ? I think 
it probable that the sun may be thus veiled, to 
accommodate it to our use. That is a happy 
idea, madam, said I ; you have founded a pretty 
little system. We may add that this vapour 
possibly falls back in a sort of rain to refresh the 
sun, in the same manner as we sometimes throw 
water into a forge when the fire becomes too 
fierce. We cannot attribute too much to the 
power of nature ; but all her operations are not 
made visible to us, therefore we cannot feel as- 
sured of having discovered her designs, or her 


manner of acting. We should not consider any 
new discovery a certain foundation for reasoning 
on, though we are very much inclined to do it : 
philosophers are like elephants, that in walking 
never put one foot to the ground till they feel 
the other firmly supported. That comparison, 
said she, is the more just because the merit 
either of elephants or philosophers does not con- 
sist in external charms; we shall however do 
well to imitate the superior judgment of both : 
inform me more of the new discoveries, and I 
promise not to be in a hurry again to form sys- 

1 have told you, I replied, all the news 1 have 
heard from the sky, and I believe no later intel- 
ligence has been received. I am sorry it is not 
so entertaining and wonderful as some observa- 
tions I read the other day in an abridgment of 
the Annals of China, written in Latin. They 
there see a thousand stars at a time fall from the 
sky into the ocean with an amazing noise ; or 
dissolve and disperse in rain. This has not 
merely been seen once in China ; I have met 
with the same account given at two remote pe- 
riods of time, besides that of a star which goes 
towards the east, and bursts with the noise of a 
gun. It is a pity such sights should be confined 
to China, while this part of the world is never 
favoured with them. It is not long since all our 
philosophers thought they had had sufficient ex~ 


perience to pronounce the heavens and all the 
celestial bodies incorruptible and incapable of 
change ; and at the same time people at the other 
end of the world were seeing stars dissolve by 
thousands : there appearance must have differed 
very much from ours. But, said she, I never 
heard that the Chinese were great astronomers. 
No, answered I, but the Chinese are gain- 
ers by being at so great a distance from us, as 
the Greeks and Romans were by being separated 
by a Jong space of time ; whatever is remote as- 
sumes the right of imposing on us. 

Really I am 'more and more of opinion that 
Europe is in possession of a degree of genius 
which has never extended to any other part of the 
globe, at least not to any distant part. It is not 
perhaps able to diffuse itself over a great propor- 
tion of the earth at once, and some invincible 
fatality prescribes to it very narrow bounds. Let 
us then make use of it while it is in our posses- 
sion : and let us rejoice that it is not confined to 
science and dry speculations, but equally ex- 
tended to objects of taste, in which I doubt 
whether any people can equal us. Such, madam, 
are the things that should engage your attention 
and constitute your philosophy. 




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